Some define contemporary art as art produced within "our lifetime," recognizing that lifetimes and life spans vary. However, there is a recognition that this generic definition is subject to specialized limitations.
The classification of "contemporary art" as a special type of art, rather than a general adjectival phrase, goes back to the beginnings of Modernism in the English-speaking world. In London, the Contemporary Art Society was founded in 1910, by critic Roger Fry and others, as a private society for buying works of art to place in public museums.
The definition of what is contemporary is naturally always on the move, anchored in the present with a start date that moves forward, and the works the Contemporary Art Society bought in 1910 could no longer be described as contemporary.
Art from the past 20 years is very likely to be included, and definitions often include art going back to about 1970, and sometimes further, especially in museum contexts, as museums which form a permanent collection of contemporary art inevitably find this ageing. Many use the formulation "Modern and Contemporary Art", which avoids this problem.
Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values. In Britain, in the 1990s, contemporary art became a part of popular culture, with artists becoming stars, but this did not lead to a hoped-for "cultural utopia". Some critics like Julian Spalding and Donald Kuspit have suggested that skepticism, even rejection, is a legitimate and reasonable response to much contemporary art. Brian Ashbee in an essay called "Art Bollocks" criticizes "much installation art, photography, conceptual art, video and other practices generally called post-modern" as being too dependent on verbal explanations in the form of theoretical discourse.