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Great question to which there are many different answers.  The Modern Quilt Guild™, a world-wide association of modern quilters and guilds, of which the Niagara Modern Quilt Guild is a member has this to say about defining what is a modern quilt:

“Modern quilting themes and styles have appeared in quilting for centuries.  Quilters have been conceptualizing modern design before modern design was recognized.  It took until the 2000s for the modern quilting movement to start gaining traction and building a wider audience.  Today at the heart of modern quilting is innovation.  The emphasis is on design and originality over replication and perfection of technique.”

“We have often used the word “functional” when describing modern quilts.  This may mean different things to different people: a modern quilt may function as a bed covering, a comfort object, or a piece for visual reflection.  In all cases the use of the quilt does not push it under or pull it out from the umbrella of being a modern quilt, as long as it is perceived by its maker as useful.  Some quilters yearn for a finite definition of a modern quilt – and some rebel against the idea.”

“Art, craft, and quilts are subjective, and modern quilting will always continue to evolve.”  

To learn more about the history and evolution of modern quilting visit The Modern Quilt Guild at www.themodernquiltguild.com

At the Niagara Modern Quilt Expo you will see quilts that represent the full spectrum of modern quilting styles and techniques, including:
Improvisation
The majority of the piecing in the quilt top is done improvisationally, without the use of a defined pattern or templates.
Minimalist Design
The design of the quilt emphasizes extreme simplification of content and form to achieve maximum visual impact.
Use of Negative Space
Quilt design incorporates a creative use of negative space integrated into the composition of the quilt.  Negative space uses large expanses of area in a single colour around other pieced or appliqued elements creating contrast, and is often heavily quilted.
Modern Traditionalism
The quilt design incorporates the use of an identifiable traditional block pattern and reimagines it by applying elements of modern design such as asymmetry, color, scale, etc.
Asymmetry 
When the focal point of a quilt is off-centre or does not match on both sides.
Alternate Grid Work
Block layouts do not follow the predictable nature of standard grids moving the viewer’s eye around the quilt.
Graphic or Bold Colours
Modern quilters often use bold, bright colours and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid colour.
Lack of Borders and Sashing
Borders and sashing are infrequently used in modern quilts unless they are part of the negative space.

Also included in the Niagara Modern Quilt Expo will be quilts, broadly defined as “Art Quilts” which are not primarily functional but intended for wall display as textile art and often use mixed-media techniques; wearable textile art, for example quilted coats; and functional quilted pieces such as home décor, handbags, and carryalls.