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Gallery Guide and Floor Plan

Gallery 11 - The Arts of the 20th Century

This gallery, designed by Cambridge–based architect David Roberts in 1965, constitutes the top floor of his ‘White Cube’ building. Three cubes were originally planned as self-contained extensions to the museum – but only one was built. It was restored as part of the Courtyard development (2002- 4).

The exterior of the White Cube building is now only visible from the service area at the back of the museum. But, in the1960s, its American-influenced design represented radical modern architecture in Cambridge.

The building is almost windowless. Gallery lighting is controlled by a complex arrangement of louvres, baffles, and reflectors set within a deep concrete ceiling. A striking woodblock floor is laid in parallel strips with a half block offset – a pattern used in America in the 1950s by the architect, Louis Kahn.

The gallery usually contains a display of mid-20th century art, although sometimes it is used for temporary exhibitions. The Fitzwilliam Museum started to acquire modern art actively in the mid-1970s. A key figure was Dr Alistair Hunter who was for some years Honorary Keeper of 20th Century Art. He also lent and donated to the museum, many significant modern masterpieces.

Since then, the museum has continued to acquire a broad range of work by contemporary artists, designers and craftspeople. It includes furniture, prints, drawings, metalwork, ceramics and studio glass. Among the many donors to this collection Sir Nicholas and Lady Goodison also deserve to be singled out for their generosity.