A second coat: why painting is the comeback art of the 21st century

By Jonathan Jones

It tends to be ignored by art prizes, but painting is trendier than ever – and makes conceptual art look elitist and out of touch

It seems only yesterday that painting was “dead”. Now it’s everywhere. In London, galleries east of Spitalfields are full of the stuff. Recently, visiting an exhibition by a painter friend, I was chatting to the young artist who runs the gallery – which doubles up as his painting studio. Opening a hidden cupboard, he took out some of his big, sprawling canvases, great stuff full of political imagery and existential angst. And that’s just inside galleries. Never mind the paintings in the streets that are so much a part of 21st-century life. Painting dead? If so we must be suffering the attack of the zombie painters, because this old art is invading every corner of the modern world from the coolest corners of the art world to underneath your local railway bridge.

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