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.
January 28–March 22, 2014
April 11–May 25, 2013
Britannia Street, London
September 7–October 2, 2010
Davies Street, London
November 6–December 20, 2008
October 19–December 3, 2005
Britannia Street, London
From the Quarterly
Fairs, Events & Announcements
NY Art Book Fair
September 21–23, 2018, project space room, booth S202
MoMA PS1, New York
Gagosian is participating in the NY Art Book Fair 2018 with a special project space conceived in collaboration with choreographer William Forsythe, exploring visual and notational approaches to dance and movement. Forsythe is a radical innovator in choreography and dance who has redefined the very syntax and praxis of his field. In the course of his singular career spanning five decades, he has developed an extensive repertoire of groundbreaking ballet choreographies and experimental, non-proscenium-based dance-theater works, as well as an open-access digital platform for dance analysis, notation, and improvisation.
At the NYABF, printed materials and videos by Forsythe are featured alongside selected Gagosian publications, as well as additional books and ephemera that reveal Forsythe’s wide-ranging influences and interests including Chris Burden, Katharina Grosse, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly, and Rachel Whiteread.
William Forsythe, Lectures from Improvisation Technologies, 2011, performed by William Forsythe © William Forsythe
Artists for Artangel
Live auction: June 28, 2018
Banqueting House, London
Online auction: June 7–28, 2018
Exhibition: June 8–27, 2018
Cork Street Galleries, London
Artists for Artangel is a special auction to benefit Artangel’s ambitious projects in contemporary art. For over thirty years, Artangel has worked with artists to produce extraordinary artworks of public import in unexpected places. Commissions by gallery artists include Rachel Whiteread’s House (1993), a negative concrete cast of a condemned terrace house in Bow, London; Douglas Gordon’s Feature Film (1998); and most recently, Taryn Simon’s highly acclaimed performance on the culture of mourning, An Occupation of Loss (2016 and 2018), presented in an astonishing underground location in Islington, London. For information on works in the auction or how to bid, go to www.artangel.org.uk.
Taryn Simon, Professional Mourners, 2018 © Taryn Simon
February 1–4, 2018, booth B19
Gagosian is pleased to participate in artgenève 2018, presenting a selection of works by Richard Artschwager, Georg Baselitz, John Currin, Dadamaino, Edmund de Waal, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Peter Lindbergh, Vera Lutter, Man Ray, Sally Mann, Brice Marden, Olivier Mosset, Albert Oehlen, Steven Parrino, Giuseppe Penone, Sigmar Polke, Ed Ruscha, Blair Thurman, Tatiana Trouvé, Tom Wesselmann, Franz West, Rachel Whiteread, and others. If you wish to receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are available at www.artgeneve.ch.
Giuseppe Penone, Pelle di foglie—5 foglie a terra, 2011 © Giuseppe Penone
Through January 13, 2019
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
This momentous show is the most comprehensive exhibition to date of Rachel Whiteread’s career. It brings together well-known works such as Untitled (Stairs) (2001) alongside new pieces that have never been previously exhibited. Special sections are devoted to the artist’s archival materials and to her drawings. This exhibition has traveled from Tate Britain in London and Belvedere 21 in Vienna.
Rachel Whiteread, Line Up, 2007–08 © Rachel Whiteread
Elephant in the Room
Sculptures of the Marx Collection and the Collection of the Nationalgalerie
November 1, 2018–October 20, 2019
Elephant in the Room—Sculptures of the Marx Collection and the Collection of the Nationalgalerie explores the relationship between artwork and spatiality. Based on the phrase “the elephant in the room,” the elephant named in the exhibition title is those forces and sizes that, although not part of the sculptures, have a decisive influence on their presence in space and are thus an integral part of the expanded concept of art of the 1960s.Work by Jeff Koons and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Jeff Koons, New Shop-Vac Wet/Dry, 1980 © Jeff Koons
March 7–July 29, 2018
Belvedere 21, Vienna
This momentous show is the most comprehensive exhibition to date of Rachel Whiteread’s career. It brings together well-known works such as Untitled (Stairs) (2001) alongside new pieces that have never been previously exhibited. Special sections are devoted to the artist’s archival materials and to her drawings. This exhibition has traveled from the Tate Britain.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Stairs), 2001 © Rachel Whiteread
The Sculptor’s Drawings
April 20–July 12, 2018
Museo Novecento, Florence, Italy
Drawing, as the initial and essential visual definition of an idea, has since antiquity played a fundamental role in the field of artistic creation. The Sculptor’s Drawings will highlight the connection between the graphic medium and the realization of sculpture and installation art. Work by Henry Moore and Rachel Whiteread will be included.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled, 1993 © Rachel Whiteread