11.05_Research_White Cube as Global Context

In order to move forward I have had to take a few days to understand what I really wanted to say which I’ve come to understand is talking about the impact of context on content and the role of the frame within this.


The White Cube as Global Context 

The project approaches the white wall within museum architecture as the ultimate frame without which the contemporary institute cannot exist. As such the project proclaims the death of the white cube not as a typology but as the institution for contemporary art.


In 1918 Malevich paints white on white and removes the frame to liberate the painting. The same white titanium dioxide pigment expands to the medium of the wall both at the domestic scale of the house and as means to rationalise the household and industrial fairs of the Werkbund.


In 1927, it hits the masterplan and consolidates itself in German museums as the Kunstverein and the Folkwang museum. 20 years later, in 1939, the white wall is imported and defines MoMA’s International style building on 53rd street. The new museum exists as the icon of an intercontinental cross fertilization between Europe and America and as the home of the inexhaustible expanded notion of the arts introduced by the Bauhaus, catering to the display of art, design, architecture. Here the wall’s specific orientation establishes a prescribed didactic journey through the creation and development of artistic styles as intended by its first Director Alfred Barr. From museum to business the spaces however defy cosiness and embrace velocity. The building is set flush, and the entrance, it no longer sits on a pediment but is lowered as to be more accessible whilst the name features prominently as to be visible from the shoppers of 5th avenue. The commercial white wall sells out principles of American co-corporate capitalism. It packages a given product, art, by producing knowledge understanding and task, it draws a wider public through distribution in galleries and catalogues giving rise to the educated consumer.


Since then, the white wall has inhabited infinite configurations from the totalitarian Kunstmuseum to the industrial Dia Beacon and commercial gallery until transmuting into the white cube as understood by Brian O’ Doherty. Today, in a simulacrum of the gallery the cube regimented itself in and as the identity of the art fair whilst also fueling an era of global museum franchises with the Louvre and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi set to open this coming year.


In the chase to modernization, and a sense of global place, the white cube has turned into global white becoming the prime accessory and emblem of culture worldwide. Timeless and always the same despite its location or context this globally replicated typology has become almost categorically fixed, a private non-place for the world of contemporary art, one of those uncanny familiar sites like the department store, airport a freeway of our time of super modernity described by anthropologist Marc Auge.


With the distinction between consumer goer and museum as increasingly blurred, today the contemporary global white wall’s aesthetic ideal is a specific macro- and micro political construction that operates in relation to an art that is involved in the social machines of identification, exchange, consumption. The very sameness of the building is political, its cloning generating a universal of civic enlightenment.


With a shift from manageable painting to grand room size installations, the global white wall has also expanded to the global white fixed volume which differs in size, scale and proportion. From the didactic arrangement established by Barr global white has extended the organisation principles of museum display to include theme, material or function of the objects as well as their geography, each inferring a specific meaning on the art they represent.


So, vital is the part played by the art museum in our approach to works of art to-day that we find it difficult to realize that no museums exist, none has ever existed in lands where the civilization of modern Europe is, or was, unknown: and that, even amongst us, they have existed for barely two hundred years. Their existence has imposed on the spectator a wholly new attitude towards the work of art. For they have tended to estrange the works they bring together from their original functions and to transform even portraits into pictures. Here the label plays the ultimate role in flattening art to a mere two descriptive lines which help us understand todays abstraction and artistic intellectualism.


In 2040 art has become so big and MoMA’s collection of 100,000,000 artworks has grown so substantial that the museum must undergo yet another renovation. With profits to museum stores contributing to 18 to 26 percent of a museums earned income, topping all other sources as well as reduced space in the metropolitan city of NY, the space on 53rd street expands the notion of bookstore as ‘prosaic insertion’ to occupy the entire structure- pushing art out- the white cube dissolves.


Following suit the museums of contemporary art worldwide disperse and each painting is given back to its owner asking us to reconsider context in relation to ownership and identity of the private individual rather as one global white entity. Slowly the museum of Modern art empties out and shipping is organized to addresses as close as the Trump tower and as remote as a little village in Indonesia highlighting the true global economy of art. Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtensetin finds home in a Roman palazzo, whilst The Enigma of The day by De Chirico makes its way back to Paris but this time rather than inhabiting the artist’s studio it exists next to a Giacometti and a Kusama in the Pied a Terre of Karl Lagerfeld.


The museums’ circulation system, so emblematic to the navigation of the typology and to our perception of art, metamorphoses into a network which carves its way through these private spaces worldwide, revealing the privatization of the art market and consequentially of the museum. The ‘opening’ of palaces to the public as understood in the Renaissance is re-interpreted in our contemporary condition at a global scale. A multitude of openings allow for the individual to plug in and plug out of this new universal network of art, questioning our relationship to the artwork in the absence of a unique space. Both the space of art and the threshold become defying elements in the perception of the art piece.


As auctions starts to take place it is almost impossible to sell the artwork as independent of its context and entire apartments follow suit- Christies and Sotheby’s shift from selling artworks to auctioning lifestyles. The new network cut outs becomes the ultimate frame and the fragments within become indispensable to each other- they exist as one unique picture. In an attempt to re-establish focus on the artwork, these new spaces are temporarily ‘whitened’ out. At a time where artistic production is extremely individualistic, global white seems to appear as the ultimate framing language which establishes and reflects our contemporary true global connection and redirects the eye to what is ‘important’.


conclusion- impossibility of true context- all subjective- global white as unique context? frame?

museum-paradox of context


(still needs a bit of work)


Idea of mapping this new global circulation path