White Cube, Gallery Report

Contemporary Practices; Professional Development Portfolio; Gallery Report

White Cube (Bermondsey)

144 – 152 Bermondsey Street

London SE1 3TQ

United Kingdom

In my report I intend to look at the White Cube as an institution looking at its history across multiple sites. I am then going to look at the space in Bermondsey in this report and talk about the physical space.

The gallery is privately run and owned, it is open to the public. It operates as a commercial gallery. It was founded by the gallerist and art dealer Jay Jopling in 1993. There was seen to be a gap in the commercial art world, as there being a lack of contemporary artists being represented at the time. The idea of the space was that it would be an intimate and focussed space for showing an artist’s individual work or body of work.

The gallery was set up as an outlet for contemporary art. The gallery now represents a large number of current contemporary artists. The White Cube as a group of galleries has been influential in elevating artists they represent such as, Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley and Tracy Emin to household name status.

The term ‘white cube’ which is also the name of the gallery is a term that Brian O’Doherty the writer and art critic, who came up with what is now regarded as a standard or ideology of how a gallery space should be, his series of essays is regarded as a reference point in how the content of the art and the context which it is displayed in can make such a difference to how it is perceived.

It currently has two galleries in London; White Cube Bermondsey and White Cube Masons Yard and a gallery in Hong Kong.

It started life in 1993 in a space on Duke Street in St James, London, was set up as a space for contemporary art, The Duke Street site closed in 2002 after being based here for nine years in a part of London where lots of prestigious commercial art dealers and galleries are based and have been traditionally (Christies has a saleroom here), it now still has a presence in the area with its gallery in Masons Yard which opened in 2006, in a purpose built space, only having absence from the area for four years whilst it was based in Hoxton square in Shoreditch.

The Duke Street site was on the first floor of a Victorian building, but the space was redesigned by the architect Claudio Silvestrin, his plans involved diffusing the windows and placing internal stud walling so that the Victorian features of the room were not visible and the space became a white box or cube, making the space clean and minimalist, it became one of London’s smallest commercial art galleries measuring ‘2.92x 4.64x 4.42meters.’ (White Cube, n.d.)

Two years before the closure of the site in Duke Street, a second was opened in Hoxton Square, Shoreditch. This was the gallery’s only site in London until the opening of the White Cube in Masons Yard in 2006(which is situated off Duke Street, near to its first location in the St James area). The gallery then had both sites for 5 years. A third site opened in Bermondsey in 2011 and then in 2012 the Hoxton Square site closed, leaving White Cube Masons Yard and White Cube Bermondsey which are its current locations today.

The Bermondsey site (See Fig. 1) is a converted warehouse, the conversion involved a complete redesign to incorporate three large gallery spaces and a large warehouse space. It is considered to be one of ‘the largest commercial gallery spaces in Europe at 58000 square feet’ (Art fund, n.d.)

whitecube_12c_panorama

Fig. 1 White Cube Panorama; 2011; Casper Mueller Kneer Architects

Opening the gallery in Bermondsey was seen as a way of looking at more ambitious projects as it is the largest White Cube gallery so can hold much larger exhibitions and larger work.

I really enjoy visiting the space in Bermondsey as I feel that the space works really well, everything has been thought about. The space is really well designed everything is well thought out, the space was designed by Casper Mueller Kneer architects.

The gallery has been designed from the ground up with a focus on the art, the floors have an industrial look and are concrete that is so polished that it becomes a delicate surface. The high ceilings have large square diffused roof lights flooding the space with light, so anything that is displayed in the space starts to illuminate itself and glow. The artificial lighting is very minimal, with track lights installed into the ceiling as not to distract from the space and to subtly highlight work. There has been so much attention to detail put into the design of the space, as well as the curation of the exhibitions within it that it really shows work to its full potential (see fig.2).

anselm-kiefer-installation-2_0

Fig.2 South Galleries; White Cube, Bermondsey

I also find how the gallery does not use on the wall captions, but instead uses a simple black and white paper map. The map explains the spaces and the works; title, medium, dimensions and date. I then find that you can physically feel the work with no distractions, before any information affects you judgement or emotions felt towards the art.

The White Cube has received protest from the Stuckist movement referring to the White Cube as causing ‘the death of contemporary art’ as they are ‘an anti-conceptual art movement’ and all of the artists represented by the White Cube are in fact contemporary and some but not all produce conceptual art, The Stuckist movement famously protested outside the White Cube in 2002.

Preparing you for the main spaces the attention to detail means that the work is represented perfectly with no distracting low ceilings low quality lighting, glare or sunlight.

The gallery’s Bermondsey site has had an exciting range of exhibitions since its opening, the recent ‘Walhalla’ Anselm Kiefer exhibition is the largest of his work in London ever, making the Royal Academy’s retrospective exhibition in 2014 seem small.

The gallery’s scale and presence means that it appeals to an international market because of two factors; its scale and status, also the status of the artists it represents.

The organisation has the group of artists that it represents, the space is beautifully put together, but is this just because of the money moving through the organisation and the fact that the gallery represents almost 50 high end contemporary artists, but also has a series of exhibitions from outside this close knit group referred to as ‘Inside the White Cube’.

It’s a closed shop in the sense of what it shows and who it represents; the artists are contemporary but are all well-established. They all have a place in the art world, is it plausible to suggest the White Cube put them here?

The gallery is a closed platform, it has its artists that it has recruited, it exhibits the work in its high end spaces designed to show the work off to its full potential to sell and show off to the world it has its cycle and system of how it works; It has a big show of one of its artists or of multiple artists, the art world flocks to it to see the latest show, the shows get good publicity because of the high standard they are always set up to, more people go to see the work, the work sells. Within the Bermondsey sight is a 60 seat auditorium that is used to hold artist talks seminars, relevant to the gallery thus getting more publicity and elevating itself to a higher place.

The gallery also has an archive on the Bermondsey site which holds detailed history of the gallery and the artists it represents; such as information on the exhibitions they have held across the world.

The gallery’s problems are in sustaining momentum and going the extra mile to sustain its status and to keep selling work.

I have researched and looked at the White Cube in my report, as it is a gallery that’s space I am in awe of every time I visit, and would be interested in making further links with the white cube as a potential for an internship or work experience, because I really like how there exhibitions are always so well curated.

 

 

Illustrations:

Fig. 1 White Cube Panorama; 2011; Casper Mueller Kneer Architects

http://cmk-architects.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/WhiteCube_12C_Panorama.jpg (accessed 04/02/17)

Fig. 2 South Galleries; White Cube, Bermondsey

Anselm Kiefer, ‘Il mistero delle cattedrali’, South Gallery; 2011; The White Cube

http://www.theartsdesk.com/sites/default/files/styles/mast_image_landscape/public/mastimages/Anselm%20Kiefer%20installation%20%282%29_0.jpg?itok=4Hqtg9_z (accessed 04/02/17)

 

Bibliography

BBC. (2011). Third white cube gallery set to open in London. BBC Entertainment & Arts. [online] . September 26, 2011. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15063357 [Accessed 9 February 2017].

Cube, W. (2017). White cube. [online]. Available from: http://whitecube.com/about/ [Accessed 23 January 2017].

Cube, W. (n.d.). The official site of Jay Jopling. [online]. Available from: http://www.jayjopling.co.uk/ [Accessed 10 February 2017].

Erőss, N. (n.d.). White cube:. [online]. Available from: http://tranzit.org/curatorialdictionary/index.php/dictionary/white-cube/ [Accessed 23 January 2017].

Fund, A. (2017). White cube Bermondsey. [online]. Available from: https://www.artfund.org/what-to-see/museums-and-galleries/white-cube [Accessed 23 January 2017].

Gillick, L. (2002). White cube: 44 duke street, st. James’s, London. Germany: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag.

Gillick, L. (2002). White cube: 44 duke street, st. James’s, London. Germany: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag.

Gillick, L. (2002). White cube: 44 duke street, st. James’s, London. Germany: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag.

Jones, J. (2016). Anselm Kiefer review – an apocalyptic epitaph for the liberal age. The Guardian. [online] . November 21, 2016. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/21/anselm-kiefer-review-walhalla-white-cube-bermondsey [Accessed 9 February 2017].

name, S. (2017). Jay Jopling / power 100 / ArtReview. [online]. Available from: https://artreview.com/power_100/jay_jopling/ [Accessed 23 January 2017].

said,  weisserwatercolours and pm, 36. (2012). …a white cube @ the white cube gallery in Bermondsey (Anselm Kiefer exhibition). [online]. Available from: https://architectureas.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/a-white-cube-the-white-cube-gallery-in-bermondsey-and-anselm-kiefer-exhibition-white-cube/ [Accessed 23 January 2017].

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

BBC. (2011). Third white cube gallery set to open in London. BBC Entertainment & Arts. [online] . September 26, 2011. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15063357 [Accessed 9 February 2017].

“The organisation’s founder, Jay Jopling, said the new space – previously a warehouse built in the 1970s, would give them the chance to “expand the range and ambition of all aspects of our programme”.” (BBC, 2011)

Cube, W. (2017). White cube. [online]. Available from: http://whitecube.com/about/ [Accessed 23 January 2017].

“White Cube Bermondsey opened in October 2011 and is the largest of all the gallery’s sites, incorporating more than 5440m² (58,000 sq ft) of interior space. The building, which dates from the 1970s, was renovated and designed by London and Berlin-based architects Casper Mueller Kneer and includes three major exhibition spaces as well as private viewing rooms, office space, a warehouse, an auditorium and a bookshop. The ‘South Galleries’ provide the principal display area for White Cube’s expanding programme of exhibitions and three smaller galleries, known collectively as the ‘North Galleries’, are used for an innovative series of shows. In addition, at the centre of the building, a top-lit, 81m² gallery entitled ‘9 x 9 x 9’, is used for special projects or for the display of a single artwork or installation. Since its inception, the building has hosted a variety of important exhibitions such as the first UK showing of work by American artist Theaster Gates, a comprehensive retrospective of prints by Chuck Close and the largest presentation of Anselm Kiefer work’s ever staged in London. To accompany these exhibitions, an education programme and an ongoing series of artists films, feature films and lectures takes place in the purpose-built 60 seat auditorium.” (Cube, 2017)

Fund, A. (2017). White cube Bermondsey. [online]. Available from: https://www.artfund.org/what-to-see/museums-and-galleries/white-cube [Accessed 23 January 2017].

“The Bermondsey site opened in 2011, and spannning 58,000 sq ft it is considered to be the largest commercial art space in Europe.” (Fund, 2017)

Gillick, L. (2002). White cube: 44 duke street, st. James’s, London. Germany: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag.

(Gillick, 2002)

Note (7 – 9) : Description of Duke Street

Gillick, L. (2002). White cube: 44 duke street, st. James’s, London. Germany: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag.

 

Advertisements