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Red Room | Museum


A Red Room is a gallery space in which all of the exhibition walls are painted red or slight variations of red.


Red has been appropriated for exhibition spaces in museums throughout time, especially when the objects were associated with 14th to 18th century European paintings, such as English, French, Dutch, and Italian drawings. Thierry Despont, a gallery designer for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, created red rooms for the exhibition of Italian paintings from 1500 to 1600 and French Decorative Arts from 1660 to 1710. The Fogg Museum of Art in Boston has many red rooms of 14th to 18th century Dutch, French, and Italian paintings. In these Red Rooms, the color red conveys a noble, imperial quality of each painting.

Apart from royalty and romantic properties, red demands attention and creates excitement in exhibition spaces. This provocative and energizing quality has often been used in children's museums and science museums, but more rarely in art museums. In contemporary art museums, however, designers or artists sometimes employ this provocative, expressive quality of red for their contemporary installations.1

end notes

  1. 1) Evidence for the archetypical use and the chronological sequence of Red Room in art museum design was developed from the following primary sources: 1790 Sir John Soane’s House [1797-1824] London in Interior Design (July 1985): 201 / 1970 Renwick Gallery [1972] Hugh Newell Jacobsen & Associates; Washington, D.C. in Architectural Record (July 1972): 111 / 1980 National Gallery of Art [1986] Gaillard Ravenel; Washington, D.C. in Architectural Record (Sept. 1986): 143; Clore Gallery, Tate Gallery [1987] James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates; London in Architectural Record (July 1987): 104-113; National Gallery of Art [1989] Washington, D.C. in Interiors (Nov. 1989): 97 / 1990 Getty Center [1997] Thierry Despont; Los Angeles in Architectural Record (Nov. 1997): 72-107; Georgia O’Keefee Museum [1998] Richard Gluckman; Santa Fe, New Mexico in Architectural Record (Jan. 1998): 85 / 2000 Tate Britain [2002] Jalm Miller & Partners; London, England in Architecture Today (March 2002): 126; Michael Rosenfeld Gallery [2002] New York City.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Suh, Joori. “Theory Studies: Contemporary Museum and Exhibition Spaces.” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2003, 23-28.