Looking back… what is the White Cube?
Exhibition spaces used to be crammed with art works. Large paintings would collage the walls in Paris’s Salons, where the walls would be any colour but white. The idea of the “contemporary” exhibition space, the White Cube, was developed in the 30s alongside Cubism and the rise of abstract art. In the 60s, artists began to push themselves away from this notion of showing work. Art critic Brian O’Doherty coined the term in 1976, when he published a book titled “Inside the White Cube,” where he described how the thing came to be, giving the cube credit for its ambiguity.
The cube allowed for many developments within the art world, but created entirely new hierarchies. As with anything, it isn’t perfect. And it certainly isn’t for everyone.
My column, the White Cube, has taken a turn too, evolving from Maggie Hope’s weekly “Palette.” The White Cube used to be a list of events happening in alternative and conventional art spaces somehow related to Concordia. Very straightforward, very “White Cube-ish.”
Here and there I used the White Cube to rant, namely about Banksy, and fangirl over meeting Kent Monkman. This year, I made the decision to use the White Cube as a platform for reflection, recounting my experiences in conventional and alternative art spaces to you.
I wrote about paper making and artists I have encountered, about feeling frustrated in my own practice, and my favourite works. I expanded the White Cube in a feature where I investigated financial matters in the industry at Concordia and in local institutions.
The White Cube has become somewhat of an icon to me. I went so far as to get a tattoo of a transparent cube (like those you would draw in elementary school geography) on my ankle. A reminder to stay out of the box, to seek alternative spaces and support grassroots art movements.
I’ve started my own things too, and it’s beginning to get more and more difficult to write from the outside. As I become more involved, my writing comes even more from the heart.
In 2020, I will do my best to focus solely on alternative art experiences in this column, diving into my experience in art education and material culture.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin