press release

Black Album / White Cube. A Journey Into Art and Music

20 June 2020 - 10 January 2021

From Saturday 20 June, the worlds of visual art and pop music will come together at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. From A$AP Rocky, Lady Gaga, and Britney Spears to Joy Division, Euromasters and The Beatles: this is the music that inspired the art in the exhibition ‘Black Album / White Cube’. Thirty five internationally renowned artists show works that have been significantly influenced by music – and that music is also featured on the Spotify playlist accompanying the exhibition. Over two hundred contemporary artworks have been brought together in the exhibition, including photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans and Anton Corbijn, video installations by Cyprien Gaillard and Arthur Jafa, and paintings by Albert Oehlen and Emil Schult. Divided into chapters such as ‘remixing and sampling’ or ‘original and copy’, the exhibition features countless exciting cross-overs.

Contemporary classics
Standing in front of Emil Schult’s original ‘Autobahn’ painting, one can almost hear the synthesizer riffs of Kraftwerk’s track of the same title. The vividly coloured motorway reaches towards the horizon. As the cover to the world-famous album the painting has reached an iconic status. The exhibition is also presenting an original copy of the most sought-after vinyl album in music history, the ‘Black Album’ by Prince. And exclusively for the exhibition, the British art director Peter Saville edited a video assembling hundreds of style derivatives to the legendary original cover design Saville had made for Joy Division’s seminal album ‘Unknown Pleasures’. The monumental installation ‘We Buy White Albums’ by Rutherford Chang – presenting more than 2,600 used copies of The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ in the re-enactment of a record store – is one of the highlights of the exhibition. It is a meditation on the relationship between an original and its copies and how the terms have different meanings in the music industry and in the art world.

Nightlife and synaesthesia
Nightlife and clubbing are featured in life-sized, penetrating photo portraits of bouncers working at the Berlin nightlife temple Berghain, shot by the photographer and Berghain doorman Sven Marquardt. The Rotterdam gabber techno scene is represented in the Exactitudes series about ‘Gabbers’ by Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek. Yet another narrative strand of the exhibition deals with the phenomenon of synesthesia where one sensory experience can unconsciously lead to another. The German painter Bettina Scholz says: “When I hear music, I see colors.” Melodies, chord changes and lyrics can trigger memories as well as the collective unconscious. While a musician can easily turn up the volume to amplify the experience of listening to music, a painter or sculptor has to find other ways to ‘amplify’ his or her art.

Black Album / White Cube on Spotify
To further accompany the exhibition, guest curator Max Dax has compiled a playlist with more than thirty tracks that are directly linked to the works. Without these tracks the exhibited artworks would never have materialized. The paintings of Albert Oehlen were influenced by the Rotterdam gabber techno of Euromasters as well as by the German techno stars Scooter. Arthur Jafa’s video installation APEX is a montage of images edited to the beat of Robert Hood’s Detroit techno track ‘Minus’. Listen to the Black Album / White Cube playlist on Spotify here.

Press preview Black Album / White Cube. A Journey into Art and Music
Thursday 18 and Friday 19 June
Press previews and interviews with guest curator Max Dax and Kunsthal curator Eva van Diggelen are possible by appointment on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 June. Members of the press can register for this by contacting

Kunsthal X Operator: Opening Black Album / White Cube.
Friday 19, Saturday 20, and Sunday 21 June from 18:00 to 20:00 hrs
The exhibition will open with a special online programme in collaboration with the Rotterdam online radio station Operator. For three nights in a row, from the Kunsthal, hosts Samira Ben Messaoud, Femke Dekker and Thomas Fonville will talk to people including guest curator Max Dax and the artists Ellie Uyttenbroek and Ari Versluis. Every evening, the talk show will be concluded with a DJ set, and the programme will be live streamed on the website and social media channels of Operator and Kunsthal Rotterdam.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the English catalogue ‘Black Album / White Cube. A Journey into Art and Music’, including interviews with the artists and an in-depth conversation between guest-curator Max Dax and Hans Ulrich Obrist on the relationship between art and music. Snoeck Verlag, €39,50, ISBN 978386442178, 208 pages.

The exhibition is realised in collaboration with the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. Guest curator is the journalist Max Dax, the former editor in chief of the famous German rock and pop culture magazine Spex, and of Electronic Beats magazine.