Seeing a great piece of art can take you from one place to another—it can enhance daily life, reflect our times and, in that sense, change the way you think and are.
In Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures and drawings, everyday settings, objects, and surfaces are transformed into ghostly replicas that are eerily familiar. Through casting, she frees her subject matter—from beds, tables, and boxes to water towers and entire houses—from practical use, suggesting a new permanence, imbued with memory.
During her childhood in London, Whiteread’s parents’ interests in art and architecture made an enormous impact on her understanding of form and material. Her father’s fascination with urban architecture “enabled [her] to look up,” and her mother’s artistic practice allowed her to see the intersection of home and studio, life and art. Whiteread fondly remembers helping her father lay a concrete floor in their basement to convert it into a studio. The processes of looking, emptying, and filling run throughout her work, revealing how the surfaces of daily life can disappear and reappear, bearing the traces of their previous lives.
Whiteread studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in the 1980s. In 1988 she had her first solo exhibition, at the Carlisle Gallery in London, which included the sculptures Shallow Breath (1988), cast from the underside of a divan, and Torso (1988), the first in a series of cast hot water bottles. The Torso sculptures (1988–) are notably the only works in her oeuvre that make direct anthropomorphic reference. This exhibition marked the beginning of Whiteread’s use of domestic items; in these early pieces, she often left remnants of the original objects—such as scraps of wood—embedded into the cast forms.
Ghost (1990) was Whiteread’s first large-scale sculpture and set in motion the ambitious, architecturally scaled works for which she is widely recognized today. Made by filling a room of a Victorian house in North London with concrete to create a solid cast that picks up the details of the walls, mantle, and windows, Ghost is a positive room-sized object that reveals itself gradually, as one encircles the huge form. Whiteread expanded on this working method in House (1993; destroyed 1994), cast from an entire Victorian terrace house. Whiteread created this work after all the other terraces in the row had been demolished, and it stood alone as a reminder of the working-class homes that once spanned the street. The sculpture sparked heated debates around issues of real estate, class divisions, and urban sprawl.
Whiteread’s first public commission in New York, Water Tower (1998), was cast from one of the city’s distinctive rooftop water towers in clear resin. “On a cloudy, gray day,” Whiteread explained, “it might just completely disappear. And on a really bright blue-sky day, it will ignite.” This ethereal presence contrasts with the weight of her Holocaust Memorial (2000), permanently installed in Vienna. Dedicated to the 65,000 Austrian Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the sculpture resembles, in the words of James Lawrence, “a private library turned inside out,” each wall lined with rows of nameless books, with two permanently closed doors on the front. In 2018 Whiteread’s US Embassy (Flat pack house) (2013–15) was unveiled at the United States Embassy in London, where the cast sections of an average 1950s suburban American house, arranged as separate geometric planes on a wall, greet visitors as they enter through the consular court.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Featuring Iwona Blazwick, Max Richter, and Mark Waldron
The sixth episode of Gagosian Premieres celebrates Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition Internal Objects at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, with a conversation between the artist and art critic and curator Iwona Blazwick, and performances by composer and pianist Max Richter and poet Mark Waldron.
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2022
The Winter 2022 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Anna Weyant’s Two Eileens (2022) on its cover.
Rachel Whiteread: Shy Sculpture
On the occasion of the unveiling of her latest Shy Sculpture, in Kunisaki, Japan, Rachel Whiteread joined curator and art historian Fumio Nanjo for a conversation about this ongoing series.They address the origins of these sculptures and the details of each project.
Augurs of Spring
As spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, Sydney Stutterheim reflects on the iconography and symbolism of the season in art both past and present.
Tom Eccles and Kiki Smith on Rachel Whiteread
On the occasion of Artist Spotlight: Rachel Whiteread, curator Tom Eccles and artist Kiki Smith speak about the work of Rachel Whiteread through the lens of their personal friendships with her. They discuss her public projects from the early 1990s to the present, the relationship between drawing and sculpture in her practice, and the way her works reveal the memories embedded in familiar everyday objects.
Rachel Whiteread and Ann Gallagher
Rachel Whiteread speaks to Ann Gallagher about a new group of resin sculptures for an exhibition at Gagosian in London. They discuss the works’ emphasis on surface texture, light, and reflection.
Rachel Whiteread on Piero della Francesca
Rachel Whiteread writes about the Italian artist’s Baptism of Christ (after 1437) and what has drawn her to this painting, from her first experience of it at a young age to the present day.
Cast of Characters
James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.
Shy Sculpture: Nissen Hut
Rachel Whiteread’s public sculpture Nissen Hut was unveiled in October 2018 in Yorkshire’s Dalby Forest. Curator Tamsin Dillon explores the dynamic history of these structures and provides a firsthand account of the steps leading up to the work’s premiere.
An exhibition at Gagosian, Paris, is raising funds to aid in the reconstruction of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris following the devastating fire of April 2019. Gagosian directors Serena Cattaneo Adorno and Jean-Olivier Després spoke to Jennifer Knox White about the generous response of artists and others, and what the restoration of this iconic structure means across the world.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019
The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.
Rachel Whiteread’s US Embassy (Flat pack house) was unveiled in its permanent home at the new American embassy in Nine Elms, London, in early 2018. Virginia Shore, the curator for the London embassy project who worked with Whiteread to realize this site-specific commission, reflects on the history of prefabricated housing, the power of “home,” and the connecting force of art.
The Connaught Christmas Tree
November 16, 2023–January 7, 2024
The Connaught, London
Encouraging Londoners to celebrate a feeling of togetherness during the festive season, Rachel Whiteread has used 102 circular neon white hoops to decorate the Connaught hotel’s 31-foot (9.4 meters) Nordmann’s fir. Whiteread regularly uses circular motifs within her practice and here they illuminate the streets of Mayfair, acting as a symbol of hope this Christmas.
Rachel Whiteread’s 2023 Connaught Christmas tree, London. Artwork © Rachel Whiteread
Wednesday, December 6, 2023, 7:30pm
Sarabande Foundation, London
Rachel Whiteread will be in conversation with Tim Marlow, director of the Design Museum, London, for the next installment in the series of INSPIRED talks organized by the Sarabande Foundation. The pair will discuss Whiteread’s recent and current projects and delve into the twists and turns of her creative career to date—from concept to form, and everything in between. Using industrial materials such as plaster, concrete, resin, rubber, and metal to cast everyday objects and architectural elements, Whiteread’s sculptural works are instantly recognizable as evocative interrogations of negative space, from the domestic to the monumental.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Azure Blue), 2021–22 © Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Thomas Lannes
Thursday, October 12, 2023, 3pm
Regent’s Park, London
Rachel Whiteread and Briony Fer will be in conversation as part of Frieze Masters Talks, a program that explores the connections between historical art and contemporary practice. The pair will discuss Whiteread’s recent and current projects, including . . . And the Animals Were Sold (2023), a new site-specific installation at the Palazzo della Ragione in Bergamo, Italy, which was conceived in relation to the historic architecture of the site and region. They will also discuss pivotal milestones in Whiteread’s life and career that paved the way for her to rise as a leading British artist. The event is free to attend with fair admission on a first-come, first-served basis.
Left: Rachel Whiteread. Right: Briony Fer
. . . And the Animals Were Sold
June 23–October 29, 2023
Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy
. . . And the Animals Were Sold is a new installation by Rachel Whiteread in Bergamo’s Palazzo della Ragione that was commissioned by Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy. Conceived in relation to the city, the architecture of the site, and the history of the region, it comprises sixty sculptures whose forms correspond to the empty space between the legs of two different chair models. Produced with local types of stone, the works suggest human absence and presence at once. Their arrangement evokes both the social distancing of the pandemic, which was particularly difficult for the Bergamo community, and the renewed proximity that is now possible.
Installation view, Rachel Whiteread: . . . And the Animals Were Sold, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy, June 23–October 29, 2023. Artwork © Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri
Photography’s Last Century
The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
February 17–May 21, 2023
Jepson Center, Telfair Museums, Savannah, Georgia
Photography’s Last Century celebrates the remarkable ascendancy of photography during the past hundred years, and Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee’s promised gift of over sixty photographs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where this exhibition originated. The collection is particularly notable for its breadth and depth of works by women artists, its sustained interest in the nude, and its focus on artists’ beginnings. Work by Gregory Crewdson, Andreas Gursky, Man Ray, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, 2005 © Gregory Crewdson
Jubiläumsausstellung—Special Guest Duane Hanson
October 30, 2022–January 8, 2023
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
This exhibition, whose title translates to Anniversary Exhibition—Special Guest Duane Hanson, features more than one hundred works from the foundation’s collection, from modern to contemporary art, to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the institution. Several hyperrealist sculptures by Duane Hanson enrich the presentation, opening up surprising perspectives on the exhibited artworks, architecture, staff, and visitors. Work by Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, Alberto Giacometti, Anselm Kiefer, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Installation view, Jubiläumsausstellung—Special Guest Duane Hanson, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland, October 30, 2022–January 8, 2023. Artwork, front to back: © 2022 Estate of Duane Hanson/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
Rachel Whiteread in
Deep Time: Commissions for the Lake District Coast–Landmark Artwork Proposal Exhibition
September 10–October 9, 2022
Beacon Museum, Whitehaven, England
This exhibition showcases proposals developed over the last two years in response to the varied landscapes and coastline of West Cumbria, where the Lake District National Park meets the Irish Sea. Organized as part of the public art program Deep Time: Commissions for the Lake District Coast, the show presents designs, models, and films by four artists, including Rachel Whiteread, who have been shortlisted to produce a new landmark artwork for the borough of Copeland.
Rachel Whiteread, Drigg Hut, 2022 © Rachel Whiteread