Inside the White Cube: Context as Content by Brian O’Doherty

Brian O-Doherty investigates the relationship between economics, aesthetics, and the social environment in Inside the White Cube. He discusses the impact of creative spaces on the strategies used.

This is a collection of popular pieces about the art world by Brian O’Doherty, a prominent Irish writer. The collection includes:

  • Context as Content
  • The Eye and the Spectator
  • Notes on Gallery Space

Since the 1930s, the specific design of galleries has influenced and pervaded exhibition and art practice across the world.

O’Doherty examines the gallery’s space and discusses how the gallery’s design affects artists. Changes in art galleries’ and museums’ work were the subject of this edition.

A Brief Summary

Door knocks represents different artistic trends at the start of the Context as Content. In fact, it’s the perfect metaphor. He also notes that one of the very first people to use his art to alter the exhibition environment was Duchamp. Duchamp turns the gallery upside down by reflecting on the relevance of the exhibition itself rather than merely the pieces in it.


Furthermore, he talks about how the gallery room’s ceiling no longer have significance. Electric lights have taken the place of decorated ceilings, and it no longer holds the same meaning. O’Doherty recalls Duchamp once more, describing how he essentially turned the show upside down, with the ceiling collapsing and the floors becoming the ceiling.

After that, the author arrives at the chapter’s starting point: how context produces content. “As modernism gets older, context becomes content,” (O’Doherty 15) according to his first point.

Additionally, the author debates the relationship between the gallery’s content and context. The primary area of concern for O’Doherty is what the simple white wall can substitute in the absence of the art’s substance.

O’Doherty answers various questions in this specific chapter. What does the gallery space’s context signify for the art piece, for instance? What effect does it have on the point of view? Lastly, how do frameworks triumph over the objects of art and come to terms with its content?

He goes on to say,” This is 70s art’s main issue, as well as its strength and weakness” (O’Doherty 79). Brian also considers the relationship between the space surrounding the art item and the gallery’s white space, as well as the effect of mixture of these factors on the viewer. The fundamental point he makes is that when the organization of art in exhibits is done to influence the observer, context becomes content.

O’Doherty’s View

Traditionally, viewers perceive artworks as things that are apart from their surroundings and can usually stand alone. However, the art’s content can’t be determined without considering its environment. However, it’s still unclear how viewers’ perceptions, appreciation, and comprehension of art are influenced by context.

O’Doherty claims that the 1855 Salon des Refusees by Courbet (O’Doherty 24) is a one-of-a-kind show, encouraging artists to create context for their work. To put it another way, this artist needed to showcase his piece in a manner that the hanging and placement of the photographs had an impact on what he was expressing in his work.

Many studies were conducted on this subject matter, such as by Brieber et al. While there are many different views on the topic, it’s clear that in the postmodern era, gallery spaces can’t simply be neutral or plain. Walls should be a canvas to express ideas to viewers.

The Bottom Line

At Doron Furman Art, we believe the context of modern art plays a significant part in delving into the content of art. The white cube gallery setting is a venue devoid of context, where time and social space are supposed to be absent from the art experience. Nonetheless, the white cube metaphor connotes emptiness and isolation from the vitality of the gallery space, which has become the content rather than the setting.

Does context produce content? Can one say that the gallery space impacts how art is perceived? ‘Context as Content’ in ‘Inside the White Cube’ by Brian O’Doherty spills everything.