Why I Hate The White Cube


I’ve had issues with going to galleries since A-level art to be honest. Unless it was literally compulsory I wouldn’t make the effort. I’m not lazy (I think? Maybe I am?)

I’d make the effort if I felt like I was getting something out of it: BUT THAT’S WHY I HATE GALLERIES. What does visiting offer me? If I can just Google a review or look at pictures from the exhibition isn’t that as good as going? I’d actually be on board if every gallery offered a digital exhibition service. Then I’d just sit in my pyjamas on a Sunday and look round the Gagosian on my laptop while eating mango chunks. It’d be bless. This does raise an interesting question though: why don’t galleries do that? By digitising the works shown you expand the amount of people that see the work; which makes me think, do they actually want lots of people to see it? Or do they just want certain people to see it? (rich people who will buy it, clever people who will write flattering things about it?) Am I that certain person? (I don’t think so).

There is a massive problem with the white cube gallery format and accessibility (in my mind this is a huge problem, but I am not really sure how much curators, gallerists, and gallery owners care about this). There is a huge void in the white cube’s viewer demographic (that is such a dickhead sentence but I can’t think of any other way to word that). David Amadasun wrote a really great article for Media Diverisfied on why black people don’t go to galleries, and I think the notion of ‘symbolic baggage’ can be extended to describe people of colour as a collective group. It’s true you know: neutrality is code for social and cultural capital. White as an abstract just means the privilege of being ‘raceless’: not having a hyphenated identity like black-British or Asian-American, or the baggage of being attached to visible signifiers of Otherness. And this is what makes people feel uncomfortable and out of place in the white cube: a space specifically designed to be neutral and free of context. My issue is with saying: neutral and free of context, for me that seems utopian and too good to be true. And if it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t true (if you used to watch that show The Real Hustle on BBC 3 a few years ago, you will understand why I’m sceptical). The white cube isn’t actually contextless, it’s just geared towards a specific identity that societally appears as neutral (hint: it’s white and it’s male). Nirmal Puwar’s book ‘SPACE INVADERS’ is really great at describing this better than me and it has the added plus side of Nirmal being the kind of intellectual brown babe I idolise.

As well as that, the imbalance of artists of colour/female artists in shows is problematic. Representation should be genuine, not tokenistic, not exceptional. If I have to suffer through one more post-war retrospective of some white guy who makes abstract paintings in soupy colours I may just rip out my own eyeballs. The Tate is the most guilty of this, and why do I have to pay to get in? By excluding the cultural production of whole groups the art world is making me hate it. It’s getting better, I know it is, but it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough and I want it to happen quicker.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I hate chain galleries also. But I do. I know. I feel like I’m Jeremy Clarkson with a list this long of things I hate about art. I feel like the art world’s grumpy old man. I don’t know why I’m in the art world if I hate so many things about it. But CHAIN GALLERIES. I makes me feel like they’re Starbucks. And when I sign up for their mailing list, I always get emails about things that sound great but are happening in Milan or Tokyo or LA and I am obviously not gonna drag my sorry arse over to Tokyo if I can’t even manage to find the will to traipse over to Hoxton. If they all digitised their collections for free I’d get on board. If I felt like this wasn’t the privatisation of cultural production or capitalist scum perpetuating a system of understanding art as intrinsically connected to money, I’d be <3ing it. But it is. I hate Charles Saatchi (not just because I love Nigella). Gab just told me a really great story. She was in the toilet of Victoria Miro and she saw fancy soap. Unacceptably fancy soap. Soap that was too fancy to be there (It was Molton Brown). So she robbed it. (It’s ok Victoria Miro you can’t prosecute because of statute of limitations.) But I think that the fancy soap says a lot. I’m not sure what it says, but the fancy soap makes me uncomfortable.

I don’t hate galleries, my problem is that I think galleries hate me. I’m not going to buy the work. I’m not going to write an article about it in Time Out (or Art Review haha). I’m just going to look at it. And that should be enough, but I don’t think it is.

heart shape full of tiny hearts