at home: Artists in Conversation | Rachel Whiteread

October 15, 2021

Rachel Whiteread, artist, in conversation with Michele Robecchi, independent curator and writer and Commissioning Editor, Phaidon Press

at home: Artists in Conversation

Join us for lively and inspiring conversations with some of today’s notable artists. at home: Artists in Conversation brings together curators and artists to discuss various artistic practices and insights into their work.

About Rachel Whiteread

Born in 1963, in Ilford, Essex, Whiteread is a preeminent British artist whose sculptures explore themes of absence, memory, permanence, and how surfaces bear the lingering presence of human use. Whiteread studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and received her MA in sculpture from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. She was one of the Young British Artists (YBAs) featured in the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1997.

Whiteread is best known for creating casts of the negative space in and around ordinary objects, revealing hidden narratives and forgotten histories. Her early works transformed intimate domestic items—beds, cabinets, hot water bottles—into haunting replicas alluding to memories of their previous lives. Among Whiteread’s most renowned works are House (1993), a concrete cast of the interior of an entire three-story Victorian home; the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial (2000) in Vienna, also known as the Nameless Library for its rows of books, with closed pages facing the viewer, cast in concrete; and Untitled Monument (2001), an eleven-ton resin cast of the vacant Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. Her first public sculpture commissioned for display in the United States, Water Tower (1998), was a translucent resin cast of one of New York City’s distinctive rooftop reservoirs installed against the skyline in SoHo.

In 1993, Whiteread was the first female winner of the annual Turner Prize. She was also the first woman to present a solo exhibition at the British Pavilion during the Venice Biennale, where she was awarded Best Young Artist in 1997. The centerpiece of her display was a plaster cast encasing the empty space beneath ten ordinary boardroom tables. Arranged to reference the difficult meetings Whiteread attended in Vienna while planning her Holocaust memorial, Untitled (Ten Tables) (1996) is now in the Center’s collection. In 2006, Whiteread was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and in 2019 she received the honor of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). Her works are in prominent collections internationally, including the Gagosian Gallery in London; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Whitechapel Gallery in London, and the Yale Center for British Art. Whiteread lives and works in London.

This program is presented through the generosity of the Terry F. Green 1969 Fund for British Art and Culture.