I think "contend" in this context means "compete", probably "compete for attention from the viewers". I do not see how either conflict or interaction can be inferred from the sentences containing the word "contend".
I have to disagree with Bill on the grammar. (Sorry, Bill!)
The artworks (on display) contend, etc. Correct.
They also contend, etc. Also correct.
(A single artwork (or it) contends, yes, but "artworks" in the given text is clearly plural. Am I missing something?)