New York City has always been a cosmopolitan center for the arts and high culture. It wasn't, however, until the middle of the twentieth century that it assumed international leadership, most especially its establishment of postwar American art of the 1950s and 1960s as an international force of great influence. The artists of this important period in American art history were known collectively as The New York School.
A number of organizations contributed to making New York City a capital of modern and contemporary art: important art galleries and dealers of modern art that grew in number during the postwar period; the increasing importance of major auction houses, such as Sotheby's and Christie's; and cultural institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum of Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
During the 1970s, at the beginning of the contemporary period in the arts, New York's postwar dominance was gradually challenged by innovative and powerful work produced in Western and Eastern Europe, East Asia, and, notably, Japan and China. New York City at the beginning of the twenty-first century still holds claim, however, to being one of the most vibrant capitals of modern and contemporary art in the world.