Think Outside the Box

Despite the quotation in my last post “you can put anything in a white cube and it will be perceived as art”, curation can be so much more than that! The whole part of being a creator is to think outside of the box, sometimes literally, whether you are an artist, musician, or a curator., curation can be so much more than that! The whole part of being a creator is to think outside of the box, sometimes literally, whether you are an artist, musician, or a curator.

An example of an artist who turns a white cube into more than what its name withholds is Cornelia Parker, and one of her most famous installations “Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991)” (as shown below).

Hung as a centre piece in a room of the Tate Gallery, the shadows of the piece dancing around the walls of the room are as much a part of the artwork as the installation itself. Here is a wonderful example of how a white cube can be used as not only the frame of an artwork, but may also work as a canvas as well. Below are just a couple of thousands of light and shadow art installations that I personally adore.

Top: City View, 2003, Kumi Yamashita
Bottom: Dirty White Trash (with gulls), 1998, Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Of course, curation is not restricted to the white cube, being entrapped by four walls. Sometimes this surrounding may hinder the artwork being presented. An admirable example of this would be the work of Jeppe Hein’s sensational project “Please Touch The Art”. Part of the excitement of his work is the scavenger hunting around in the outdoors, discovering, playing, and interacting with his pieces that people wouldn’t necessarily go and see. Hein’s work makes art more accessible to the public, bringing it to the forefront of more peoples minds. Not only this, but certain pieces are simply aesthetically far more beautiful in the outdoors.

Could you imagine this, trapped in a blank room, reflecting nothing but the blank sheet surrounding it?


One of my personal favourite artists work is best curated in the outdoors too. Confining such works indoors would merely destroy the magic that it’s marriage with nature provides. His name is Andy Goldsworthy. To quote the man himself:

“My art is an attempt to reach beyond the surface appearance. I want to see growth in wood, time in stone, nature in a city, and I do not mean its parks but a deeper understanding that a city is nature too-the ground upon which it is built, the stone with which it is made.”

To conclude, though it is seemingly most common to display art in the ever famous “white cube”, that does not necessarily mean it is better. In fact, I personally may go to argue that it is far more creative to place artwork somewhere nobody has ever thought to display work. Stray from the norm, and don’t let regularities restrict you.

On a brighter finishing note, here is a selection of Goldsworthy’s artworks. (I couldn’t bring myself to choose only one favourite).

If you were interested in any of the artists mentioned in this page, please explore the following links:

Cornelia Parker

Kumi Yamashita

Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Jeppe Hein

Andy Goldsworthy


The White Cube

I was once told in a university lecture that you can put “anything in a white cube” and it will be perceived as art, which- to someone completely new to the entire concept of curation- makes it seem like a waste of a subject.

So, what makes good curation? If you can just position anything in a white cube, is there really a point?

Prior to the 1930’s, galleries would look rather like the images presented below, almost as if every space of the wall needed to be filled with a painting; the less wall present, the more fulfilled your gallery was, thus making it higher quality. Personally, part of me appreciates the mosaic-like structure- how everything fits together like a puzzle, and how some images lean over you in a 3-D manner- however I can also understand how this is entirely impractical.

Being in the presence of such galleries, the curation appears hustling, and overpowering. It is a tiresome challenge to provide each image its full deserved attention when it is surrounded by other beautiful yet interrupting images, and most of the time out of reach for me to properly see. Despite my efforts, it’s near impossible for me to notice each detail of every painting like I would if it was at eye level directly in front of me without distraction.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York holds the first known “white cube” gallery; it’s aim to provide a background with the highest possible contrast to it’s bold displaying piece. This appeared to eliminate the issue of cluttering the scene, and brought back focus to each individual piece of artwork. Though entirely contrasting, it was equally complimentary and seems to have remained that way ever since. Only postliminary to the second world war did the white cube come into the British and French gallery scene, though it was apparent within Germany during 1930, at the same time as the Nazi era. Subsequently, people may be inclined to argue a link between Nazism and the white cube, linking the common connotations the Nazis held between the colour white and purity; others may argue that it is completely coincidental.

To conclude, and to answer my afore mentioned question “what makes good curation?”, it seems galleries have evolved to discover that good curation means background and foreground must work together. Rather than removing all possible space from the background, include the space as part of the artwork to compliment and draw as much focus and attention to the piece as possible. Curators do not just “display” art, they include the wall to create their own art, whilst simultaneously boosting artworks to show off their full potential.