Whiteread frieze unveiled at Whitechapel Gallery

  • 14 June 2012

Rachel Whiteread's beautiful commission for the Whitechapel Gallery façade, created with Art Fund support, has been unveiled in East London.

Rachel Whiteread's beautiful commission for the façade of the Whitechapel Gallery, created with support from the Art Fund, has been unveiled in east London. 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.

The unveiling

The commission was unveiled by Rachel Whiteread, Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar, Whitechapel Director Iwona Blazwick and filmmaker Danny Boyle. Whiteread said, ‘Having been a resident of the east end for over 25 years I have a deep connection with the area. The Whitechapel gallery has played a pivotal role in the east end's historic and thriving cultural community. I am honoured to have been able to make a site-specific sculpture for the galleries facade.’

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said, 'This exquisite new work by Rachel Whiteread permanently and beautifully transforms the façade of a remarkable art gallery. The Art Fund was excited by the artist’s proposals from the word go and was delighted to make a major grant to make the commission possible. The finished work is a coup for London, its public, and its visitors.'

The artist

British sculptor Rachel Whiteread is best known for her casts of the 'negative spaces' of buildings, rooms and spaces. Her 1990 sculpture Ghost cast an entire room from a house in the East End of London in negative, with features such as the fireplace and door handles appearing as indentations. A later work, House, did the same with an entire Victorian building.

Whiteread's ability to make absences tangible have led many to associate her work with death and loss, leading to her commision for the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial in Vienna. She won the Turner Prize in 1993, and was the third artist to create a sculpture for Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth.


Find out more about Rachel Whiteread's commission for the Whitechapel Gallery.

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