At the press conference for Gerhard Richter: Panorama a familiar question came up: What is the future of painting?

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The questioner went on to set the context of painting being thought of as a dying medium. Though painting has survived and evolved from cave painting to today, more than any other medium, we seem determined to analyse it. The question “is painting dead?” has been asked for roughly a century, and yet we remain fascinated by what the use or meaning of painting might be, and perhaps most importantly what place painting should hold in our society.

Gerhard Richter studio in Cologne showing work from the Cage series in progress
Gerhard Richter's studio in Cologne showing work from the Cage series in progress (2006)

As a painter, Richter is conscious of his connection to the art historical tradition of painting, but he also states that there is a gap separating him from the traditions of the past. This simultaneous connection and disconnection leads him to constantly question painting as a medium and as a practice. What are its capacities and limits? What are its private and public roles? What is painting’s relationship to photography? 

Through this constant questioning, as Nicholas Serota said, Richter has pushed the boundaries of painting far beyond what we might have thought possible, and continues to do so.

So how did Richter answer? What is the future of painting? Richter replied that pushing the boundaries was no longer his task; it was the task of future generations of painters.

How does that fit with your view?

What or who do you see as pushing the boundaries of painting?

And why do you think painting continues to be noted as a “dying form”?



Dear Tate Debate... I hope you, and indeed all of us take note of Ivan (3 November 23:15)

Chad Swanson

The rapid development of photoshop has had me questioning the comparative advantages of painting perhaps in a similar way to how the camera induced self reflection amongst early modernists. I definitely prefer the process of making an oil painting, but I concede that it is at times like choosing to use hand tools over power tools (where realism is concerned. )

My respect for the virtues of photoshop partly explains my gravitation to rock as a base. Much like a tattoo, rock allows a collaboration between a surface and image in a way that makes each piece of art unique. I reject mass production much like I reject much of modern art for turning its back on skills and knowledge in the aim of making subjective art whose price can be manipulated at auctions or artists who can be given grants on the basis of who they brown nose rather than how they can engage an audience across time and space. (subjective art that is conducive to cronyism is the mainstay of the conceptual art movement)


Painting is not dead, and the fact that "Is painting dead?" question still circulates merely means that painting has been dwarfed by the recent advance and explosion of different kinds of other mediums and techniques the artistic community is and was picking up on and exploring: from Pollock`s spilled paint over canvas to today`s ephemeral digital art.

Art is experiencing a free age. I wouldn't call it Renaissance, but in the same time, there is no one absolute, influential and autocratic dogma out there that would have sufficient social, political and economical power to limit the creative spirit world wide. We have been democratizing the art so to speak for the past decades. Everybody can contribute to the mutation of art and artistic forms, now more than ever. In this context, it looks like painting might appear as dying but it is not. You can say painting was kind of an orphan all this time and one day this orphan child finds out that there is a huge family out there of close relatives as well as distant folk with which, after centuries of singularity, it fits and sinks in.

The instinct to stick your finger in some colourful mass and smear it over a surface is part of us, humans exploring the world, and on this base, it is right at the origins and, in the worst case scenario, we will always start with it.

Thanks Kirstie for posing such a thought provoking question.

Ben Clarkson

I think painting's future lies in a few directions. There was a great article in border crossings few issues back about how painting now is like a nostalgic 70's radio parade of disco music. Nothing is absolutely sincere because all of the elements have been touted and used before. None of the ideas were new. I think that there is a continued future in this because painting may return to skill, to technique to include in it's manifesto of past styles and ideas to draw upon, and to mutate into a cornucopia of new and fresh ideas. As long as there are people willing to mutate ideas, and take chances we will have interesting paintings. I also see a major future in digital painting. Our world is increasingly a digital place, with every connection happening via a computer network (this sentence is totally meta). So what does the advent of global connectivity, the entire history of art in high resolution at your finger tips, a wacom tablet and adobe photoshop mean for the future of painting? It means no surface at all. A virtual surface, where painting takes a step from several decades ruled by sculptural objects into the realm of pure image.


The path to surface and/or image is as exciting today as it has ever been. Paint has its own humble quality which occasionally makes it a soft target, mainly for those unable to open the tubes. Conceited or arrogant use of the medium is immediately apparent, something which is perhaps all too often masked by other more technology-based media which relies heavily on images 'fallen of the back of a truck'. Paint is simply another tool for realising our visions. I believe it sits easily alongside heavyweight software now and will continue to do so in the future. As long as we have hands, we will make marks... digital or otherwise. We will (hopefully) continue to make 'things' but to question the validity, limits, roles, relationships, etc of the material itself is irrelevant and suggests 'naval gazing' in the extreme. There is of course, a little arrogance in the Richter quote suggesting he had previously pushed the boundaries of painting. He may say that, I couldn't possibly comment.


Not for me. Painting is like breathing! Every day, paint something new, hot, exciting and breathtakingly beautiful. The explorations, the processes, the different mediums and substrates. Each unto itself is a true awakening. A real transfer of good energy.

Painting is very much alive.

- Timo

Frederick Jones

‎'Painting is dead', 'the novel is dead', 'film is dead' ... these are all things journalists write. How about 'Journalism is dead'?

maria magdalena

Paint will never die. It´s a human expression. it will change with techno but a paint is a paint. Feelings,ideas ,visions,will exist always.People who expess them, and People who are touched by Paints.

Virginia Trembles

Attention to painting expands and contracts, about the time the press, critics and chattering classes are talking "death of painting" the next wave is about to land. Painting hunkers down to grow and take on the "new" (video/computer interface with painting) at a .5 generational pace. The malleability and physicality of the medium are unrivaled, it has moved us -it does move us -it will move us. Okay, at some point I drank the kool-aid, it was grape flavored btw...


To better answer the questions...

What is the future of painting? I don't know with certainty, but I can't wait to find out. To me, it would seem to be the direct painting of feelings. Emotions. The highs and the lows. The textures of our existence. The essence of who we are and what we feel. Transferring that feeling, knowledge & energy, in the abstract, or not, onto a substrate. The successful transfer will connect.

How does that fit with your view? I feel that pushing the boundaries is indeed my task, and the task of future generations. I would encourage all artists to keep painting, keep growing, expanding the possibilities. Those possibilities are forever changing, and open.

What or who do you see as pushing the boundaries of painting? Nathan Redwood. Steven Yazzie. Jennifer Espenscheid. Reginald Baylor. All of them breaking boundaries as we've known them. That's the "who" in my world. Antoni Tapies and Jasper Johns are still alive, and I wonder what their truly latest endeavors will show. As for the "what," I would think new techniques, coupled with new focus. New beauty that turns the world on its ear.

And why do you think painting continues to be noted as a "dying form”? I can't imagine that level of profound ignorance. I disagree with the notion entirely. Just look around...

We are, so, we create. Some create with type, some create with numbers, or words, or code, or people, elements, beliefs, theories and philosophies. Thankfully, some of us use paint. As long as there is paint, people will create new and wondrous works.

- Timo


What is paint anyway? It is a concrete and maleable subtractor of light, with paint we are free to create any constructs and patterns of electromagnetic radiation that we wish to be in contact with our retina.

While it may lose centre stage in the ever-short attention span of contemporary (currently most publicly accepted and deemed worthwhile) art, it will never stop being able to give us a total freedom and independence to make the images we want our eyes to see.


we react. the urge to react to a blank space is always there. even if the urge were to leave the space blank, it is still a reaction. painting being dead is an absurd idea.

Ali Berrett

Surely painting as well as the huge number of other techniques, skills, crafts and concepts both old and new can continue to thrive alongside each other? It's not just about the end product and whether that can be reproduced through alternative means, it's about the process too. Paint is amazing stuff!!

And Hill

In answer to your recent tweet:

"...why is the "is painting dead" question still current? Let us know on the blog #TateDebate"

The question will be current for as long as there are still idiots around asking it.

Monika Loevenmark

"Most supporters and detractors of painting know well the story of how the painter Paul Delaroche, upon first seeing a Daguerreotype in 1839 exclaimed: 'From today painting is dead!'" Painting has been fated for a punctuated death since the birth of photography, and through each cycle of "is it" or "isn't it," painting manages to just scrape by. The very nature of a practice that exists on the verge of anticipated death is that of excitement and a liveliness worth fighting for. It is through the urge to say more of what has already been said, because the artist feels that enough has not yet been said, that painting continues to thrive. I often think of Feminism when this question of painting's death is brought up, because both face a tiredness of terms, and a lack of patience with the subject, and yet not enough has been said of either. I think the cycle shall continue indefinitely, at last as far into my generation as I'll allow myself to see. (I haven't a knack for foresight.) Perhaps painting exists still because it remains undefined, and perhaps undefinable. I do not think that painting is the basis of which fine art or contemporary art stands, not at all. It simply fell first on the time line and has lead to many new discoveries. My final thought: If artists hadn't become fed up with painting, then perhaps collage and projection, and other new, contemporary medias, wouldn't have gained popularity.

Monika Loevenmark

And by the way, Richter's Cage paintings at the Tate are terrific, they're really a success in Richter's constant battle between the intuitive and reason, I'll be leaving Sweden for a weekend to see the retrospective. Looking forward to it.

ken white

Painting will never die, only for those who cant. to much out of focus boaring film and to many written explanations today.


Actually, people have been saying that painting is dead for a lot longer than 100 years. Delaroche supposedly said so around 1839. Richter's ambivalence towards art history is a clue to one reason why painting is unlikely to die. How else can one have a dialogue with the great art of the past but through using the same medium they did? If this issue really is being raised anew, can it be because it's hard to imagine how the boundaries of painting, as you put it, can be pushed any further than they have already? Why aren't people saying that Art is dead, not just painting? Perhaps what is dead is the idea of linear progress in art, in which case perhaps the future of painting is NOT about pushing boundaries at all. Is innovation the only important thing in art? Surely such an approach is unsustainable. What next for painting? I guess painters will continue to redefine what makes painting unique each time something new comes along to compete with it.

Sebastian May

As one of the oldest and most basics forms of art, painting is one of the most culturally integral and relevant practices for us today still. There is absolutely no reason why painting should be labelled as a dying art form and contemporary artists have long known to develop and grow their painting practices as any other professional artist would do. Especially with a growth in digital arts and new technologies, we have seen painting develop and speak to younger audiences in particular - such as digital painting and interactive painting displays. Of course, always looking for the next best art form, painting is often labelled as dying. However, as long as we remain interested in visual arts - and humans are visually inclined - painting is here to stay.


Hey Kirstie ....

This kind of event / debate would be very very intresting in our iternational artistic community (151 countries, 8 languages)... Please, take a tour there :

if you want me to post some news on our're welcome...

rob bos

I have seen painting come alive recently in the work of a few artists who use video to record the process of painting, and subsequently make animations of the creation and destrucation of images on the canvas. Painting will never die, but it seems that we will never stop talking about its life and death either. ( )

Annie de Elia

As long as we have bodies, we will need and want to express our ideas and emotions via tools, be it brushes or keyboards. Of course I prefer the brushes and the stains.

Debby Wang

If the subject is in question, it must be present to be questioned. If painting is dead, then it just is, no one would question its relevance, except those in the art world who seek controversy, judgement, and a platform to raise their status to preside over what is relevant in the art world. Painting must surely never be dead, because every time this subject is raised, controversy is stirred. The fact that everyone cares to talk about this makes painting alive and well and real, and never dead. Next topic.

Just love art, feed your soul.

Eunjoo Choi

If artists ignore the basis of fine art, that is the "painting" there is no future of Fine art. Painting is the racine of Fine art.


Makes me want to make a t-shirt with PAINTING IS DEAD written in block caps. It's a stupid question. It was photography that tried to kill painting, but any ridiculous claim like this only adds fuel to the fire. Ask if anything is dead and you can guarantee the answer is yes no maybe. If by asking the question, what you really want is to declare paintings power, to continually reinstate its relevance and force in the art market. Artists become painters for pure financial reasons. Everytime we ask if painting is dead we renew it's place as the king of all arts. It can never die. It, along with sculpture, is the basis from which all art is derived. When the nuclear catostophe rids earth of tools and technology - stone remains. It's like the base chakra or something.

Phil Renshaw

Try working against your better judgment for a change.....

Yvonne Mabs Francis

If painting is dead then why are so many artists practising it. It certainly has moved from centre stage since the Renaissance and has had to compete with modern technology which produce imagery as well as the attack from Art Colleges and it's University status with the practising of Conceptual Art. The rise of Outsiders, the various societies with differing approaches, the International internet groups, all display a true love of this practise, basic to human nature. Whether or whether not these artists will ever enter mainstream and be presented at either Tate Britain or Modern may remain to be seen, their death rattle is defiantly not heard, rigor mortise is not about to set in.

Eleonora Knowland

It is impossible to ask the use of painting as there are so many reasons for paintings, and does it even need a use?. Every painter, every viewer, every person who buys a painting is answering the question "is painting dead" with a resounding NO.

John D Moulton

For me the question is two-fold: Is painting dead as a means of artistic impression? And/or as a means of financial gain? It seems to me that with the myriad of painting and drawing products (alone) still being sold to create art, and given the number of well-subscribed local art groups I am aware of in my little town, the creative urge to paint and draw is still alive and well. But on the matter of sales, or maybe more specifically, what we are presented with as being 'what we should buy'; and yes, I mean by Tate Modern and others, it is hardly surprising to me if it is that 'retail' art is perceived as dying. Here's an interesting quote on this matter: "The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art's audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public." Who said that?" Paul Gauguin. (1848-1903) And so, on the specific subject of painting I would say that we artist must paint what we feel in our hearts and our brokers must seek to satisfy that which the public craves and not attempt to bend the market to their will with what they alone wish to present as representative of 'today'.

jessica de pomar

Seriously, considering art and painting as a basic human expression, as long as pigments still exist on earth painting will never die. Best wishes

Check my new concept in painting: Liquid painting. It is free, adaptable, flexible, it's alive!