15 OCT 06
Lecture by Brian O’Doherty

Brian O’Doherty ailas Patrick Ireland, USA : From the White Cube to the Global Space

According to Brian O’Doherty there are mainly two spaces where art happens ; within a private studio where the artist produces his work and in a public gallery where art is exhibited. He analyzes the possible synergetic and contaminating relationship between the two.

The idea is exemplified by the works of Lucas Samaras and Vermeer, which show inter-relations between the artist, the space, and the spectator. In Samaras’ case, the artist’s studio is totally transformed into the gallery space, which serves as the frame of his artwork and inside of which the spectator finds himself included. This self-referential act of taking the life of the artist as a subject for painting has also been seen in Vermeer’s Allegory of Painting. The Painter in his studio. He represents himself in the act of painting, showing both the model and the studio. This shows the artist’s life is catered to the spectator. Developing from this function of the studio and the gallery both as a frame, he gives other interpretations about these two spaces. O’Doherty sees the studio as :

- A subject for painting (Vermeer, Allegory of Painting. The Painter in His Studio, ca. 1666)

- A way to express social messages (in The painter’s Studio. A Real Allegory, 1855, Courbet divided his studio into two parts standing for the vices and the virtues and he put himself in the middle)

- A work of art which represents the artist’s life as an act of self-referentiality. (Lucas Samaras, Bedroom, 1964 / Robert Rauschenberg, Bed, 1955 / Kurt Schwitters, Merzbau, 1923).

In all these three ways the private sphere becomes public.

- A womb, generative of ideas. It is “the work’s place of origine”

- An utopy, a commune (Andy Warhol’s Factory)

- A place of two mainly aesthetics : 1. Mess, accumulation, instability, as a mirror of the creative process and wildness energy (Francis Bacon’s studio, Kurt Schwitters, Merzbau, 1923) 2. Order, equilibrium, elimination, monastic clean, void. Here life is put aside in favor of measure. The risk is the artistic paralysis and the transformation of the artist in a victim of his own work (Michael Asher, Site*, 1974 / Mark Rothko and Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, and Brancusi’s studios).

O’Doherty sees the gallery as :

- A frame or window between the inside, the artist’s private sphere, and the outside, the public. (Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red, 1908)

- A "collage of tenses". In a gallery time is frozen allowing the display of many artworks from different periods putting them at once, all together.

- An illusion and artificiality related to the perceptive act (the notion of being aware).

All the former definitions of "gallery" need a new meaning nowadays because of the changing medium. Videos and installations have transformed the gallery into a space for "site-specific" experimentations. This leads to a final consideration about a redefinition of the white cube’s status according to the formats of the new media in contemporary art.

*Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another. Notes on Site Specificity, in Theory in Contemporary art since 1985, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, pp.32–40.

Brian O’Doherty ailas Patrick Ireland : Artist, Author of "Inside the White Cube".

Lucia Pesapane
Karla Roalandini
Yuka Tokuyama


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