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Founded in 1901 to 'bring great art to the people of the East End of London', the Whitechapel Gallery occupies a distinctive arts and crafts building designed by Charles Harrison Townsend.
Its programme has ranged from showcasing art from Africa, India and Latin America to premiering emerging figures such as Picasso, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Through exhibitions such as the Whitechapel Open, the gallery has promoted artists who live and work in the East End of London.
It has no permanent collection, but a rolling programme of several exhibitions each year. The programme has ranged from showcasing art from Africa, India and Latin America to premiering emerging figures such as Picasso, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. The gallery holds a triennial open submission competition, which has recently been relaunched as The London Open. The Whitechapel Gallery completed a £13 million expansion in April 2009.
Rachel Whiteread's beautiful commission for the facade of the building, Tree of Life, created with support from the Art Fund, was unveiled in June 2012. The artist's first permanent public commission in the UK, it features clusters of leaves, cast in bronze and plated in gold leaf, emblazoning the gallery's facade with shimmering foliage. The work was inspired by both the Tree of Life, an Arts and Crafts motif adorning the gallery's towers, and 'Hackney weed', the urban plants that grow on buildings in the area.