Art Paper on The White Cube and the Evolution of Gallery Spaces

Art Paper on The White Cube and the Evolution of Gallery Spaces

Art cannot exist and develop without historical context and further resonance. Exhibition venues are also saturated with certain atmosphere and cannot be treated neutral. White cubes venues are meant to function as an exhibition separate from the rest of the world, where one can contemplate art as it is. The white cubes emerged after many years of art seeking to merge with life and subsume it. They are spaces that are suitable and used in facilitating reflection of certain forms of art (Sheikh 4). White cube is a historical and ideological construct that cannot be separated from the artworks shown in it and it emphasizes the formal quality of the pieces as well as creating market-relations of art.

White Cube

White Cube can be referred to as a symbolic exhibition space and gallery. It can also be explained as an ideological field that surrounds the western modernism. White cube serves the purpose of making sure that there is a presupposed perfect environment to facilitate the proper presentation of the works of art. Therefore, the white cube requires the environment for the artworks to be plain. The idea also advocates for the artificial sources of light to be hidden. It also advocates for an exhibition area that should have a polished wooden floor or fix uniform carpet. Additionally, white cube includes a clean and discreet environment that is meant to strengthen the abstraction of space and facilitate for the decontextualization of the present conventional exhibition and gallery spaces (Nison par. 2).


White cubes are detached from the reality that is found in the outside environment, for example, their historical, social and economic context. The detachment is meant to support the essence of art to be visible, to ensure there is a sort of sacrality and timeliness to infiltrate experience with the artworks. The white walls eliminate any perceptive that link with the reality and emphasizes on the quasi-religious environment that excludes social space and time. It hence creates a neutral space. The neutrality space formed enables the viewer to increase their concentration on the individual masterpiece. The viewers are hence free from any interference with their experience in the exhibition. Hence, white Cube plays a significant role in helping the art free itself from the idea of the exhibition, and it can be viewed as an introduction to a piece into a room (Wolf par.1).

Cubism and abstract art exhibition in 1936, the first example of the revolutionary white cube display method.

(Source: MOMA, New York)

Exhibition Format within Its Historical Context

White cube is a physical space, historical and an ideological construct that cannot be separated from the works of art that are in the exhibition. It contributes significantly towards emphasizing on the formal qualities of the pieces in the exhibition. It attempts to withdraw itself from the artworks, but it dominates the work that is being displayed (Grespan Par. 2). The ideology surrounding the white cube is in modernism as well as in creating market-relations of the art. As a result, it is hard to separate the two ideologies and hence results in placing the white cube in a position of being loved and hated by people. The highlights the deep connection the visitors has with the space (O’doherty 27).

It can be deduced that severe discipline of the white space exhibition can currently be compared with a frame on an oil painting. The taking of the sculpture off the pedestal symbolizes the rebellious nature of contemporary art. The art has hence been different from the traditional maker that used to separate it from life. The contemporary art has hence demonstrated its desire of refusing to be set apart by the gilded décor. Modern art has a unique approach to respectability of art that set it apart from traditional work. The white cube art exhibition is the reverent cathedral of the modern art (Maak, Klonk and Demand Par.3).

Neutral Exhibition Space

It is impossible for any space to be considered neutral since environments, and all the situations have an effect on the art that is viewed in an exhibition. O’Doherty’s explained that “the gallery space is not a neutral container, but a historical construct” (37). The neutrality that can be described to be experienced after the painting of walls white, is an illusion. The white space is an artistic object in and of itself. It is impossible to separate the ideal form of the white cube that modernism came up with for the exhibition space from the works of art that are exhibited inside. Therefore, the white cube creates a space that is free of context. It excludes social space and time from the experience of the artworks. The white space creates apparent neutrality of appearing separate from daily life experiences and politics and this makes the work inside the white cube to be viewed as self-contained. The neutral space cannot exist in the gallery. However, the white paint is applicable in the establishment of a dichotomy between the outside representing the social and political context and the inside value of art (Obrist Par. 1).

The critics of the neutral space concept can be based on the fact that, the environments and the situations inside the white cube affect the viewer’s interpretation of the works of art. Similarly, the fact that neutral space can lead to the lack of real life object indicates that the audience tend to develop an attitude of reflection. The results are that the neutral space in the white cube creates an aesthetic of silence. Viewers are not supposed to touch anything, and they are required to maintain silence and, they should not use loud tones or laugh when they are in the gallery. The atmosphere can be unfriendly to the less prepared public that can feel intimidated and uncomfortable (Paul 33).

Legacy of the White Cube

The model of a white cube is branded onto the shared cultural memory. The legacy of the white cube is in that it will be applied and be included in the future practices that do not support the model. Its unchanging space is a haven for elitist hierarchies. It creates the environment of the eternality in artistic values and new instances. For this reason, it necessitates for the re-inheritance of warped perspectives and outdated values. The white cube also offers the appropriate avenue for displaying the arts concerning the beliefs, the past, and present of orders of the world. White cube has been used as an evaluation since it has succeeded as a model that has encouraged and spurred experimentation which is considered as its legacy (O’doherty 44).


White cube is used in the modern western art to increase the formal quality of the work of art. The ideological field that surrounds white cube is based on the market relations as well as the modernism of the art. It concept has greatly focused on the creation of strong relationship between the visitor and the space.



Works Cited

Grespan Eugenia, “White Cube: An Idea of Gallery Space.”Archiscapes. 1 May 2015, 14 Mar 2017

Maak, Niklas, Charlotte Klonk and Thomas Demand. “The White Cube and Beyond: Museum Display.” Tate org. UK. 1 Jan 2011, 14 Mar 2017

Nison, Rebecca. “Why Are Art Galleries White Cubes?” Hopes and 5 Nov 2015, 14 Mar 2017

Obrist, Hans U. “What Is the Future of Art?” 1 Feb 2016, 14 Mar 2017

O’doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: The ideology of the Gallery Space.  London, Berkely Los Angeles, 1999. Accessed 14 Mar 2017

Paul, Christiane. “New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art.”Leonardo Reviews Quarterly 1.01| 2010 (2008): 33.

Sheikh, Simon. “Positively White Cube Revisited.”E-Flux Journal 3 (2009). 1-6. Accessed 14 Mar 2017

Wolf, Justin. “The Museum of Modern Art.”The Art Story Foundation. 1 Jan 2016, Accessed 14 Mar 2017