The Boundary and Possibility of Digital White Cube

O’Doherty mentioned in Inside the White Cube that, “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 20th-century art. And it clarifies itself through a process of historical inevitability usually attached to the art it contains.” Rauschenberg’s White Paintings of 1951, which hung in cross-formations from the celling as part of the environment can be seen as part of visual/performance art. It indicates Zen aesthetics, but more importantly, it questioned whether art experience should actually be sought from ‘within’ objects. When visitors approach the museum environment, they would contemplate the meaning of this “emptiness” as “high-art”, which can be painstaking because it challenged people on their understanding of art and museum’s function.

Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting

In regards to Malraux’s Imaginary Museum, the decontextualized representations of works of art in photographic reproductions in books enabled a reconceptualization of art by styles and cultures, abstractions that render a history of cultural objects into “art history.” Benjamin describes the remediated work would lose its “aura.” “By replicating the work many times over, it substitutes a mass existence for a unique existence” (Benjamin, 1939). Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-Valise comprises a collection of miniatures and samples of his pre-1935 output. Duchamp remediated his works in a portable museum, which is remediated art history book or a salesman’s brief case.  Hopkins describes the Boîte-en-Valise exemplifies the transition between two worlds: the old Europe of the museum and the connoisseur, and the young America of the commercial gallery and the artistic commodity. By duplicate his won works, Duchamp challenged the “aura” of original pieces.


Boîte-en-Valise, Marcel Duchamp, 1941

Malraux describes the art book and reproduction cannot capture the real artifacts but the distilled art history, “What is reproduced and mediated in art books? The already-organized holdings of museums, libraries, and archives, and the concept of ‘art history’ itself.” While some artists deliberately questioned the easel painting tradition and created some art works that are very hard to be reproduced. Rauschenberg’s notorious Bed of 1955 moved bed from a horizontal to vertical orientation in the object’s upright placement. Based on a picture, it is really hard to capture the controversial essence of this work and without the physical experience with the texture, Rauschenberg’s inventive notion: “Combines” seems meaningless.


Robert Rauschenberg, Bed, 1955

In 1950’s, the London-based Independent Group openly embraced kitsch and further challenged museum’s function and it’s ability to mirror art works. In IG’s Parallel of Life and Art exhibition, photographs of varying sizes were attached to the gallery walls. Some of them were suspended by wires from the celling. Malraux describes that, “In an album or art book the illustrations tend to be of much the same size. Thus works of art lose their relative proportions; a miniature bulks as large as a full-size picture, a tapestry or a stained glass window. ” IG’s photography exhibition challenged the stereotype on photography; however, when it was introduced as one example in art history books, it still have to be limited by the scale and relatively poor picture quality 60 years ago.


Parallel of Life and Art,1953

Malraux noted that photographic reproductions in a book can only provide an abstract notion of a style. The dis-located or de-located “museum” enables an abstract encyclopedia of comparisons across history and material contexts, but one that thematizes “styles” or features thought to be held in common(Irvine, 2015). In Google Art Project, the Imaginary Museum 2.0., which attempted to tackle an imaginary museum with most recent technology, provided more space sense by adding 360-degree indoor map function.  Google art project’s indoor map function add 3D user experience, which provided more possibilities for Modern Artists and Pop Artists to express their esthetic values in some extend.

Google Art Project Indoor Map



Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube (Chap. 1)

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility (1936; rev. 1939).

Hopkins, D. (2000). After Modern Art 1945-2000 (1St Edition edition). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
André Malraux, “La Musée Imaginaire (The Imaginary Museum)”.