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b. 1963, United Kingdom

Rachel Whiteread Biography

From the insides of furniture, buildings, and hot water bottles to windows and the spaces beneath objects, Turner Prize winning artist Rachel Whiteread's cast sculptures capture spaces that are otherwise considered invisible or empty.

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Rachel Whiteread's Early Works

Rachel Whiteread studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art, completing her degree in 1987. Whiteread's first solo exhibition at London's Carlisle Gallery in 1988 featured two of her early cast works: Closet (1987) for which she cast the inside of a cupboard in plaster and covered the sculpture in black velvet, and Shallow Breath, which captured the hollow negative space beneath a bed (1988).

Following the critical and commercial success of her first show, Whiteread created Ghost (1990). One of her most ambitious projects, the work entailed taking a life-size cast of a room in a house in North London. The resulting cuboid form measures 3.56 metres wide, with only the recesses of the door, window panes, and fireplace visible. Ghost is currently housed in the collection of the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC.

By the early 1990s, Whiteread became associated with the Young British Artists (YBA), an emergent generation of artists who gained notoriety for their provocative art and lifestyles. She exhibited with Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas, among others, in YBA exhibitions such as Young British Artists I (1992) and Sensation (1997) at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

House (1993)

In 1993, Rachel Whiteread created House, one of her most well-known and controversial works. House, a large concrete sculpture modelled to scale and representing the last standing property in a London neighbourhood that was slated for demolition, the work catalysed a national debate over both the regeneration scheme and the definition of art.

In the same year, Whiteread won the Turner Prize for House—becoming the first woman artist to win the prize in the award's history—but was also elected as 'the worst artist of the year' by the inflammatory K Foundation. Meanwhile, the London council decided to demolish her work after only six weeks of its completion. Regardless, Whiteread had by this point achieved critical acclaim, going on to represent Great Britain at the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997.

'Shy Sculptures'

Rachel Whiteread has continued to create small- and large-scale cast sculptures in various materials, creating what she calls 'shy sculptures': materialisations of the space around ordinary objects that 'you just come across, very much a part of the landscape,' as she told The Guardian in 2013. Her various subjects have included the spaces under chairs in Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) (1995), the interior of a boathouse in The Gran Boathouse (2010), and a garden shed in 'Detached' (2012).

A Series of Public Artworks

Over the years, Rachel Whiteread has completed a series of public commissions that continue her exploration of unnoticed subjects and spaces. Water Tower (1988), a U.S. Public Art Fund commission, consists of resin casts made from water towers across New York City. Because of their transparent material, the casts either appear to vanish into the air or to reflect light, depending on the weather. Whiteread similarly considered the often overlooked form of the pedestal in Monument (2001), which presented an inverted pedestal atop the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Other public works by Whiteread prompt quietude and contemplation, such as the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial in Vienna (2000), for which the artist made a large concrete cast of the inside of a library. While the bookshelves are filled with books, the titles have been turned away from view to convey silent remembrance. Cabin (2016), a permanent public sculpture on New York's Governors Island, is another concrete cast of a cabin that provides a momentary repose from the hectic traffic of the city.

Investigating Space

In Internal Objects, her 2021 solo exhibition at Gagosian London, Rachel Whiteread presented large-scale sculptures that are not made from casts for the first time. Titled Poltergeist (2020) and Doppelgänger (2020—2021), the sculptures comprise two white huts that are constructed from discarded materials but are in dramatically different states. Poltergeist appears to have been rattled by an unseen force, while the nearly destroyed Doppelgänger suggests a more totalising destruction.

Major Survey Exhibition at Tate Britain and other accolades

Rachel Whiteread, a major survey exhibition of the artist's work, was jointly organised by Tate Britain and the National Gallery of Art. After debuting in 2017 at Tate Britain, it traveled to Vienna's Belvedere 21 and the NGA in 2018, and then to the St. Louis Art Museum in 2019. That year, Whiteread was also awarded a damehood for her contributions to contemporary art in Britain.

Solo Exhibitions

Rachel Whiteread's solo exhibitions include Internal Objects, Gagosian London (2021); Rachel Whiteread, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia (2019); Place (Village), Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, London (2017); Looking In, Luhring Augustine, New York (2015); Looking Out, Luhring Augustine Bushwick, New York (2015); Study for Room, Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna (2014); Rachel Whiteread: Drawings, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Nasher Sculpture Centre, Dallas, and Tate Britain, London (2010); Rachel Whiteread, Portland Art Museum, Oregon (2009).

Group Exhibitions

Rachel Whiteread's works have also been featured in numerous group exhibitions, among them Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (2021); Photography's Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2020); Contemporary Art: Five Propositions, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2019); Home Is a Foreign Place, Met Breuer, New York (2019); 60 Years, Tate Britain, London (2019); Elephant in the Room — Sculptures of the Marx Collection and the Collection of the Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof-Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2018); Women House, 11 Conti, Paris, and National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2017); Primary Structures and Speculative Forms, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2016).

Rachel Whiteread lives and works in East London.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021

Rachel Whiteread
featured artworks

Untitled by Rachel Whiteread contemporary artwork painting, photography
Rachel Whiteread Untitled, 2017 Hand printed silver gelatin photograph on Ilford warm tone fibre based paper, with hand punched holes
14.8 x 10.4 cm
Dellasposa Gallery Request Price & Availability
Untitled (Felt Floor) by Rachel Whiteread contemporary artwork sculpture
Rachel Whiteread Untitled (Felt Floor), 2003 Resinated wool felt
381 x 251 x 8 cm
Beyer Projects Request Price & Availability

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Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, United States
Gagosian Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris +6
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