The Gesamtkunstwerk Of Contemporary Art Galleries


Kukje Gallery by Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu, Seoul, South Korea

Most modern art galleries have a uniform design known as “the white cube.” Brian O’Doherty describes the design in a group of essays published by Artforum in the ’70s, writing, “[a] gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church… Walls are painted white… The wooden floor is polished… the art is free, as the saying used to go, ‘to take on its own life.'” These rules leave little room for distinction, and apart from the art itself, the architecture of the building becomes the sole means of expression.

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Art Warehouse in Boeotia by A31 ARCHITECTURE, Dilesi, Greece

Like museums, galleries have begun to invest in their architecture in an attempt to separate themselves from the crowd and become an “icon.” Good architecture can turn galleries into gesamtkunstwerk, or total works of art. The following galleries from the Architizer database are examples of the contemporary impulse to emphasize both the art on display inside a gallery and the building that houses it, creating a holistic experience for the gallery visitor.

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Sperone WestwaterFoster + Partners, New York, New York



The Architectural Mash-Up


Villa RotterdamOoze, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Digital technology has made the mash-up a quintessential art form of the new millennium. Hearing Britney Spears sing over the Clash can be disconcerting at first—to some maybe even offensive. However, combinations of disparate tracks can reveal hidden aspects of either song, and create a truly transcendent—or at the very least entertaining—experience. (If you are not sure what a musical mash-up is google Hollertronix or Girl Talk to find out.)


Didden VillageMVRDV, Rotterdam, Netherlands

The analog world of architecture normally eschews the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink ethos of digital pop culture. Simplicity and purity are a big part of the aesthetic values celebrated by contemporary architects.


Hunsett MillACME, Norfolk, GB

The notable exception is architects grouped under the postmodernist umbrella, who sought to combine diverse elements into their buildings. Rejecting Mies van der Rohe’s idea that “less is more,” Robert Venturi, famed postmodernist architect, offered the rejoinder “less is a bore.” However postmodernism’s influence over architectural philosophy has proved tenuous

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The Floating Farmhousegivonehome, Eldred, US