Rachel Whiteread: Wikis


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Rachel Whiteread
Ghost (1990)
Born April 20, 1963 (1963-04-20) (age 46)
Nationality British
Field Sculpture

Rachel Whiteread, CBE (born 20 April 1963) is a British artist, best known for her sculptures, which typically take the form of casts, and first woman to win the Turner Prize.

Whiteread is one of the so-called Young British Artists, and exhibited at the Royal Academy's Sensation exhibition in 1997. She is probably best known for Ghost, a large plaster cast of the inside of a room in a Victorian house, and for her resin sculpture for the empty plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.


Family life

Whiteread was born in London and raised in the Essex countryside, until aged seven, when the family returned to London. She is the third of three sisters — the older two being identical twins.

Rachel Whiteread's mother, Pat Whiteread, was also an artist. She died in 2003 aged 72, the death having a profound impact on Rachel's work. Her father was a geography teacher, polytechnic administrator and lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, who died when Whiteread was studying at art school in 1989. Rachel trained in painting at The Faculty of Arts and Architecture, Brighton Polytechnic, was briefly at the Cyprus College of Art, and later studied sculpture at London's Slade School of Art. For a time she worked in Highgate Cemetery fixing lids back onto time-damaged coffins. She began to exhibit in 1987, with her first solo exhibition coming in 1988. She lives and works in a former synagogue in East London with long-term partner and fellow sculptor Marcus Taylor. They have two sons.[1][2]


Many of Whiteread's works are casts of ordinary domestic objects and, in numerous cases, the space the objects do not inhabit (often termed the "negative space") — instead producing a solid cast of where the space within a container would be; particular parts of rooms, the area underneath furniture, for example. She says the casts carry "the residue of years and years of use". Whiteread mainly focuses on the line and the form for her pieces.

Unlike many other Young British Artists who often seem to welcome controversy, Whiteread has often said how uncomfortable she feels about it. On 24 May, 2004, a fire in a storage warehouse destroyed many works from the Saatchi collection, including, it is believed, some by Whiteread.


Ghost (1990)

In 1990 she expanded on her earlier work with Ghost, the first of her works to cast an entire living space and the first to bring her to the attention of the public and critics. Like her earlier works, it shows signs of a place having been lived in, with patches of wallpaper and specks of colour from paint discernible on the walls. It is a cast of an entire room, and this motif was expanded in 1993 with House. It was purchased by the collector Charles Saatchi.

The critical response included:

"unquestionably the most resolved, substantial and satisfying use so far of the single idea that defines her career."[3]

— David Cohen, Artnet — reviewing the Sensation exhibition in 1997.
External links:
Whiteread's House, the controversial sculpture for which she won the 1993 Turner Prize and the 1994 K Foundation award.

House (1993)

House, perhaps her best known work, was a concrete cast of the inside of an entire Victorian terraced house completed in autumn 1993, exhibited at the location of the original house — 193 Grove Road — in East London (all the houses in the street had earlier been knocked down by the council). It drew mixed responses, winning her both the Turner Prize for best young British artist in 1993 and the K Foundation art award for worst British artist. Tower Hamlets London Borough Council demolished House on 11 January 1994,[4] a decision which caused some controversy itself.

The critical response included:

"A strange and fantastical object which also amounts to one of the most extraordinary and imaginative sculptures created by an English artist this century.

The Independent[5]

"Denatured by transformation, things turn strange here. Fireplaces bulge outwards from the walls of House, doorknobs are rounded hollows. Architraves have become chiselled incisions running around the monument, forms as mysterious as the hieroglyphs on Egyptian tombs."

The Independent[5]

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) (1997)

For the Sensation exhibition in 1997, Whiteread exhibited Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), a series of resin casts of the space underneath chairs. This work can be seen as a descendant of Bruce Nauman's concrete cast of the area under his chair of 1965.

The critical response included:

"like a field of large glace sweets, it is her most spectacular, and benign installation to date [...] Monuments to domesticity, they are like solidified jellies, opalescent ice-cubes, or bars of soap — lavender, rose, spearmint, lilac. They look like a regulated graveyard or a series of futuristic standing stones with a passing resemblance to television sets."[6]

— Andrew Lambirth, The Spectator, October 12 1996.

"Particularly effective when bathed in natural light, it creates beauty from domestic nothingness."[7]

— Nick Hackworth, London Evening Standard, November 12 2002.
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Water Tower (1998)

In 1998, Whiteread made Water Tower as part of a grant for New York City's Public Art Fund. The piece was a translucent resin cast of a water tower installed on a rooftop in New York City's SoHo district. Just as Ghost led on to the larger and better known House, so Water Tower led to the more public Trafalgar Square plinth work three years later.

Technical: 9,000 lb of translucent resin, painted steel, 12 ft 2 in (370.8 cm) high x 9' (274.3 cm) in diameter.

The critical response included:

"an extremely beautiful object, which changes colour with the sky, and also a very appropriate one, celebrating one of the most idiosyncratic and charming features of the New York skyline."[8]

Lynn Barber, The Guardian, May 27 2001.
External links:

Holocaust Monument a.k.a. Nameless Library (2000)

Holocaust Monument (2000) Judenplatz, Vienna

Whiteread's casts often seem to emphasise the fact that the objects they represent are not themselves there, and critics have often regarded her work to be redolent of death and absence. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that she was asked by Austrian authorities to create a work in remembrance of Austrian Jews killed during the Holocaust. Due to political sensitivities and bureaucracy the process, from commission to unveiling, took five years.[9]

The work turned out to be Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial (2000; also known as Nameless Library) and is located in the centre of the Judenplatz in Vienna. It is a work in cast concrete, with the walls made up of rows of books, with the pages, rather than the spines, turned outward; this can be regarded as a comment on Jews as a "people of the book" and the Nazi book burnings.[10] On one of the walls is the negative cast of double-doors.

External links:

Untitled Monument (2001)

Demonstration against the unveiling of "Untitled Monument", 4 June 2001.

With Untitled Monument (2001), (also variously known as Plinth or Inverted Plinth), Whiteread became the third artist to provide a sculpture for the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Her sculpture was an 11 ton resin cast of the plinth itself, which stood upsidedown, making a sort of mirror-image of the plinth. It was said to be the largest object ever made out of resin, taking eight attempts to produce due to the resin cracking.[11] The work was produced in two halves and surface blisters of the cast repaired by picking them off and filling the small craters with a syringe of resin. Unusually for a public work, she raised the funds for the piece herself by selling maquettes (small preparatory models); this was no small gesture with the mold alone costing over £100,000.

The critical response included:

"This dazzling anti-monument monument looks like a glass coffin, but its watery transparency relates to the large fountain that dominates the Trafalgar plaza. Following the aquatic theme, Whiteread's Monument evokes the scene of the1805 naval battle for which the square is named."[12]

— David Ebony, Artnet

"It's a simple trick, but an effective one, and the associations it conjures — heaviness and lightness, earth and heaven, death and life — are thought-provoking and manifold [...] Whiteread's Monument, as light and gleaming as the plinth is dark and squat, is the only one of the four commissioned pieces to allude directly to the plinth's defining emptiness. She sees it not as a space to be filled, but as an absence to be acknowledged, and she does it well."

— Ned Denny, New Statesman, July 9 2001.
External links:

Snow Show (2004)

"The challenge has been to work in collaboration with an architect [Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa] in a completely unfamiliar material. At this point, there is a 3-dimensional model of an actual stairwell space in East London, electronic imagery and a wooden mould that is being constructed in Rovaniemi, Finland. I know that the piece will be made from snow and will have a feeling of solidity; the viewer will be able to walk into it. The form is based upon a simple stairwell space that has been turned by 90 degrees. The exterior of the piece is a pragmatic solution simply reflecting the complex geometry of the interior. The new space should feel familiar and domestic. I hope that it will disorientate the viewer and make one think of other places."[13]

— Rachel Whiteread

Embankment (2005-2006)


In spring 2004, she was offered the annual Unilever Series commission to produce a piece for Tate Modern's vast Turbine Hall, delaying acceptance for five to six months until she was confident she could conceive of a work to fill the space [2]. Throughout the latter half of September 2005 and mid-way into October her work Embankment was installed and was made public on October 10. It consists of some 14,000 transluscent, white polyethylene boxes (themselves casts of the inside of cardboard boxes) stacked in various ways; some in very tall mountain-like peaks and others in lower (though still over human height), rectangular, more levelled arrangements. They are fixed in position with adhesive. She cited the end scenes of both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Citizen Kane as visual precursors, she also spoke of the death of her mother and a period of upheaval which involved packing and moving comparable boxes.[14] It is also thought that her recent trip to the Arctic is an inspiration, although critics counter that white is merely the colour the polyethylene comes in, and it would have added significantly to the expense to dye them. The boxes were manufactured from casts of ten distinct cardboard boxes by a company that produces grit bins and traffic bollards.[15]

The critical response included:

"With this work Whiteread has deepened her game, and made a work as rich and subtle as it is spectacular. Whatever else it is, Embankment is generous and brave, a statement of intent."[16]

Adrian Searle, The Guardian, October 11 2005.

"Everything feels surprisingly domestic in scale, the intimidating vistas of the Turbine Hall shrunk down to irregular paths and byways. From atop the walkway, it looks like a storage depot that is steadily losing the plot; from inside, as you thread your way between the mounds of blocks, it feels more like an icy maze."[17]

— Andrew Dickson, The Guardian, October 10 2005.

"This is another example of meritless gigantism that could be anywhere, and is the least successful of the gallery's six attempts to exploit its most unsympathetic space,"[18]

Brian Sewell, London Evening Standard, October 2005.

"[looks] like a random pile of giant sugar cubes [...] Luckily, the £400,000 sponsored work is recyclable."[19]

— Stephen Moyes, Daily Mirror, October 11 2005.
External link:

Charity Box (2007)

Whiteread created this small, plaster sculpture for a charity auction by the Prior Weston PTA, in support of the Prior Weston primary school in Islington, London.

The piece measures, a comparatively tiny, 16cm x 11.5cm x 11.5cm.

The box is reminiscent of those used in the tate Modern installation she created in 2005/6.

External links:

Angel of the South (2008)

She was one of the five artists shortlisted for the Angel of the South project in January 2008.


In Whiteread's exhibition, "Rachel Whiteread: Bibliography,” she continued to explore the human traces left on ordinary objects. Whiteread exhibits an ongoing examination of the physical body’s contact with the space it occupies and the objects it comes across. In this exhibition, Whiteread investigates the concepts intrinsic to packing, storage and moving by casting cardboard boxes in plaster. [20]


External links





Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I don't want to make plop art — sculpture that just gets plopped down in places.

Rachel Whiteread (born 1963) is a Turner Prize-winning artist, best known for her sculptures, which typically take the form of casts. She is one of the so-called Young British Artists, and exhibited at the Royal Academy's Sensation exhibition in 1997. She created House, a large concrete cast of the inside of a Victorian house, and a resin sculpture, Monument, for the empty plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.


  • I make all this stuff in the studio, but I also work on these white elephants — like House or Untitled Monument — things that are incredibly ambitious, take an awful long time to do, involve a lot of controversy, an awful lot of people, and don't make any money particularly, but it's just because I need to make them.
  • I think the difference between me and some of the other YBAs [Young British Artists] was that I was ambitious for the work, and not ambitious for myself.
    • As quoted in "Still breaking the mould" by Gordon Burn in The Guardian (11 October 2005)

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