Art Practice and Exhibition Essay

Pages: 5 (1785 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

¶ … art practice and exhibition-making often seemed to challenge the 'white cube' as norm for exhibiting contemporary art in recent years?

The purpose of the present paper is to explain how and why art practice and exhibition making have often seemed to challenge the "White cube" as a norm for exhibiting contemporary art in recent years.

"Inside the White Cube: the ideology of the gallery space" was published by Brian O'Doherty in 1976 in the Artforum and included a series of three articles. The material was later selected and published in one book. The concern of the author was mainly with the conception and creation of the exhibition space. The social, cultural and philosophical changes brought about by modernism had an important impact upon the manner in which the art object was perceived. If art was a message, the medium in which the message was conveyed was equally important for its reception. O'Doherty even claimed that the audience was tempted to pay more attention to the exhibiting space than to the exhibited object. Addressing the communication process McLuhan had said that "the medium is the message." Was that really the case with the art galleries as well?

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In the essay O'Doherty states "The history of modernism is intimately framed by (the gallery) space; or rather the history of modern art can be correlated with changes in that space and in the way we see it. We have now reached a point where we see not the art, but the space first. (…) an image comes to mind of a white, ideal space that, more than any single picture, may be the archetypal image of twentieth century art; it clarifies itself through a process of historical inevitability usually attached to the art it contains."

TOPIC: Essay on Art Practice and Exhibition-Making Often Seemed to Assignment

The ideal space for exhibition is that which is completely neutral, a surrounding environment in which the viewer can have a pure perception with the contemplated object, establishing a one on one communication process. From this point-of-view, the perfect space is the white cube. Large rooms, painted in white, a lot of space dedicated to a single item, a septic space that can not be penetrated by the outside and in which all perception "noise" is eliminated. "The Ideal gallery subtracts from the artwork all cues that interfere with the fact that it is "art." The work is isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself. This gives the space a presence possessed by other spaces where conventions are preserved through the repetition of a closed system of values.(...)" (O'Doherty, 12)

It is believed that the construction of a gallery must resemble the creation of a sacred space, the most important element of which is the artistic piece of art. Such a neutral surrounding is thought to highlight the piece of art. Naturally, the piece of art is what it is also thanks to the context in which it is presented. If you find an object exhibited in an art gallery you will most likely take it as a piece of art."A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceiling becomes the source of light. The wooden floor is polished so that you click along clinically or carpeted so that you pad soundlessly, resting the feet while the eyes have at the wall.(...)" (O'Doherty, 23). The contextualizing space is therefore a "pure" one.

The color, the light and the shape which characterize it were believed to be neutral enough in order to allow the viewer to perceive the piece of art in a "correct," unbiased manner. Nevertheless, the fact that a gallery is a contextualizing space still biases the perception. The "natural" characteristics of the setting do make an impact upon the perception process. The cold surroundings are supposed to contribute to the creation of an intimate space, in which art itself is experienced as an intimate process.

It is safe to say that the "White Cube" became a standard for both art creation and art exhibiting. Nevertheless, looking at what has been going on throughout the world in the recent years, we could state that these standards have been challenged. Artists have began to use the exhibiting spaces in ways which become constantly more creative. The exhibiting space is no longer conceived as a separate entity from the exhibited object. On the contrary, the space is used in a manner which almost integrates it in the perception and evaluation of the art object. From this point-of-view it can be stated that the focus in the last years has been on the maximum use of the space, almost to the point of creating real installations. The artists have understood the importance of challenging the viewers' perception and many of them have tried to influence the mechanism in order to allow the viewer to have an enriched experience of the piece of art.

It could be stated that there is whole new paradigm is being born when it comes to the creation and exhibiting rules of art. Artists have been dedicating themselves a lot to experimenting in the last years. The pure white space of exhibition is used as a playground. Many artists bring additional color of light and/or musical backgrounds, in order to enrich the experience. The context of the art gallery is no longer enough and artists are creating contexts within contexts. The space of exhibition becomes a metatext itself, a piece of art which hosts a piece of art. The use of natural light coming through huge windows situated not above the exhibition rooms, but on one or all of its sides is often met for various kinds of exhibitions.

The boom of digital media has encouraged creativity and a lot more people are wishing to be provided with the opportunity of expressing themselves and being put in contact with a wide audience. Therefore, the exigences of the artists have changed. But not only that. The tastes of the art consumers have also changed and people are hungry for rich experiences when they visit art galleries. Therefore, more than one artist is usually exhibited in the same art gallery, allowing the viewer to have "compare and contrast" type of experiences.

The purpose of an art gallery is to facilitate the contact between the piece of art and a wide audience. Lately galleries have been taking this dimension of communication between artist and audience to a whole new level, creating their online version. Saatchi and Saatchi is perhaps the most relevant example in this regard. The number of artists exhibiting online is huge. In addition, they can also sell their works and get 70% off the sale. One might argue that the selection process becomes an issue under these circumstances. First of all, there is not a clear criterion according to which the exhibiting artists are selected. This naturally has a certain impact upon the quality of the exhibited work, in the sense that one may find pieces of very high quality, but also of very low quality. In addition, the large number of exhibitors makes t difficult for the viewer to find and select art. The name of the exhibiting space is no longer a guarantee for the exhibited work, but rather the piece of art itself. The online medium functions according to rules that differ form the ones of reality. Tag systems can be helpful, but in the end, it is the quality of the work which attracts views, tweets, re-tweets and republishing and awareness. It seems that the entire art market is undergoing important changes.

Addressing the exhibiting rules on the other hand, we also notice the tendency to take art out of the official exhibition environment and place it in spaces where people would normally not expect to find it. In this regard we could mention the initiatives taken by Art Below to exhibit in the underground areas of London and Tokyo. Artists are selected by a jury and their works are afterward exhibited on panels on the underground walls, on the ground and even on huge screens. This means that the original medium is often abandoned. An oil painting may end up being exhibited as an image on a screen in a huge crossroads such as Shibuya in Tokyo. We understand that the whole context is changing and that art is trying to impact people in a different manner than before.

The context of the underground or of the biggest crossroads in the world is quite different from the quiet and white space suggested by the White Cube ideology. There is no silence and the viewer becomes a viewer by chance and not because he wished so. Under these new circumstances the quality of the piece of art and its message become fundamental. These are the factors which might attract the passer by and transform him into a viewer and an… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Art Practice and Exhibition" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Art Practice and Exhibition.  (2011, April 7).  Retrieved September 20, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Art Practice and Exhibition."  7 April 2011.  Web.  20 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Art Practice and Exhibition."  April 7, 2011.  Accessed September 20, 2021.