Is painting dead?

Something funny has been happening with painting lately – it seems in terrible shape and yet also in better health than ever. The endless boom of the art market, which privileges painting and especially abstraction, has given us a new generation of ‘zombie formalists’, churning out safe, easily sellable pictures that look good in digital reproduction and in the booths of ever-multiplying art fairs. And yet, beyond the frenzied market scene,  the art of painting seems to be thriving. Biennials that used to contain nothing but video and installations now bulge with not just abstraction but also figurative painting – last year’s Gwangju Biennale in Korea was a feast of representational art.

Is painting healthy or sick? And why is it so hard to tell? The Forever Now, a divisive show of contemporary painting now on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, argues that painting

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