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, 2pm EDT
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.
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.
Solid Recollections: Rachel Whiteread
James Lawrence explores the quiet power and critical role of memory in Rachel Whiteread’s public works.
London Gallery Weekend
Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread
June 4–6, 2021
As part of the inaugural London Gallery Weekend, Gagosian will have extended hours at all three London locations. Damien Hirst: Relics and Fly Paintings, the second exhibition of the artist’s yearlong takeover of the Britannia Street gallery, will be unveiled on June 5 to coincide with the event. Visitors can also see Rachel Whiteread: Internal Objects at Grosvenor Hill, alongside additional works by the artist at Davies Street, before it closes on June 6. London Gallery Weekend is a new and free annual event featuring over 140 of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries coming together to celebrate culture and creativity.
As part of the event, Gagosian is collaborating with the Connaught Patisserie for a special pop-up, which will be at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, on June 5 from 10am to 4pm and June 6 from 11am to 3pm.
Installation view, Rachel Whiteread: Internal Objects, Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, April 12–June 6, 2021. Artwork © Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates
FT Weekend Digital Festival Spring 2021
Rachel Whiteread, Enuma Okoro, Jan Dalley
Thursday, March 18, 2021, 12:35pm edt (4:35pm bst)
As part of the spring edition of the FT Weekend Digital Festival, Rachel Whiteread, author Enuma Okoro, and Financial Times art editor Jan Dalley will be in conversation. The trio will discuss the body and spirit in art.
Gagosian is partnering to host the arts program throughout the three-day virtual event. Recent Gagosian Quarterly films on Edmund de Waal, Theaster Gates, Titus Kaphar, Meleko Mokgosi, Rudolf Polanszky, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and Adriana Varejão will be screened between sessions. To join, purchase tickets at ftweekend.live.ft.com.
Left: Rachel Whiteread. Middle: Enuma Okoro. Right: Jan Dalley
Art Basel OVR: Pioneers
Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers
March 24–27, 2021
One of a hundred selected galleries, Gagosian is pleased to present Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers, an exclusive online project for Art Basel’s launch of OVR: Pioneers. The presentation will include works by Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Nam June Paik, and Rachel Whiteread.
Theaster Gates, American Tapestry, 2019 © Theaster Gates
Contemporary European Art
Through September 19, 2021
Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin
Presenting work by more than ninety established and emerging artists from thirty-four countries, Diversity United reflects the diversity and vitality of Europe’s contemporary art scene. The exhibition, which will travel to venues in Moscow and Paris, sheds light on subjects such as freedom, democracy, migration, territory, and political and personal identity. Work by Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Tatiana Trouvé, and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled, 2010, installation view, Gagosian, Davies Street, London © Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Mike Bruce
September 7, 2019–March 8, 2020
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens
Using various materials to articulate the negative space surrounding or contained by objects, Rachel Whiteread has elaborated various approaches to casting and impression as subject, process, and vehicle for content. In this solo exhibition, Whiteread is exhibiting a 2010 series of five outdoor stone sculptures, cast from the voids under different chairs.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled, 2010 © Rachel Whiteread
Objects of Wonder
From Pedestal to Interaction
October 12, 2019–March 1, 2020
ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark
Objects of Wonder features sculptural works from 1960 until the present. The exhibition, conceptualized in collaboration with Tate, London, showcases recent sensory or thought-provoking sculpture and experiments. The audience encounters a series of works that challenge the genre, where tactility, context, and light play a central role. Work by Damien Hirst, Bruce Nauman, and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Air Bed II), 1992 © Rachel Whiteread
Rachel Whiteread in
October 6, 2019–January 26, 2020
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
Resonating Spaces aims to create a specific quality of spatiality in very varied forms—acoustic, sculpted, and drawn. Although different from one another, the works in the show create spaces rather than being perceived as single objects only. They induce sites and respites in which the capacity of remembering is elicited and images and memories come to life. Work by Rachel Whiteread is included.
Installation view, Resonating Spaces, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, October 6, 2019–January 26, 2020. Artwork © Rachel Whiteread