Don’t Fear the Painter, or the Tyranny of Whiteness

the inside of an empty factory building, all painted in shades of white
Photo by Lars Myregrund via Flickr (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

White Noise publishes an excerpt of David Batchelor’s book, Chromophobia, an exploration of color theory and, as he argues, the West’s historical fear of color. In the introduction, he recalls a visit to the home of an art collector whose décor was an aggressive rejection of color—although that’s not how the home’s architect would describe it.

There is a kind of white that is more than white, and this was that kind of white. There is a kind of white that repels everything that is inferior to it, and that is almost everything. This was that kind of white. There is a kind of white that is not created by bleach but that itself is bleach. This was that kind of white. This white was aggressively white. It did its work on everything around it, and nothing escaped. Some would hold the architect responsible. He was a man, it is said, who put it about that his work was ‘minimalist’, that his mission was to strip bare and to make pure, architecturally speaking, that his spaces were ‘very direct’ and ‘very clear’, that in them there was ‘no possibility of lying’ because ‘they are just what they are.’ He was lying, of course, telling big white lies, but we will let that pass for the moment. Some would hold this man responsible for the accusatory whiteness that was this great hollow interior, but I suspect that it was the other way around. I suspect that the whiteness was responsible for this architect and for his hollow words.

Read the excerpt