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.

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