Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain

10th of December 2017, London (UK)

During my short London stay some weeks ago, I visited the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Tate Britain. This review aims to give you a short description of Whiteread’s art and her current show in London. 

Whiteread was born in 1963, living and working most of her life in London. She has studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic and sculpture at the Slade School of Art in London. In 1991, she was first nominated for Tate’s Turner Prize, becoming the first woman to win it in 1993.

The artist uses industrial materials such as plaster, concrete, resin, rubber and metal to cast everyday objects and architectural space. Her evocative sculptures range from the intimate to the monumental.

The London exhibition offers the opportunity to experience three decades of Whiteread’s sculpture, exploring its range over time, working on an intimate, as well as monumental scale. Also included is a range of drawings the artist produces as a way of working through her ideas. 

In a vast 1,500m² open gallery space, some of Whiteread’s most important large scale sculptures are shown alongside her more intimate works. These include Untitled (Book Corridors) 1997-8 and Untitled (Room 101) 2003 – a cast of the room at the BBC’s Broadcasting House thought to be the model for Room 101 in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four. A range of smaller sculptures include casts in different materials and colours from architectural features such as floors, doors and windows to domestic objects such as tables, boxes and a selection of Torsos, Whiteread’s casts of hot water bottles.

A highlight of the exhibition is Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995 – an installation of 100 resin casts of the underside of chairs – shown in Tate Britain’s Duveen galleries. Special sections are also devoted to archive material and to the artist’s drawings. Working with pencil, varnish, correction fluid, watercolour and collage, these works on paper constitute a distinct area of Whiteread’s practice and are an intimate part of her artistic process in producing her sculptural work.

The exhibition is curated by Ann Gallagher (Director of Collection, British Art) and Linsey Young (Curator of Contemporary British Art) with Helen Delaney (Assistant Curator) and Hattie Spires (Assistant Curator of Modern British Art). The exhibition is co-organised with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, curated by Molly Donovan, where it will be shown in autumn 2018, and will also tour to the 21er Haus Vienna and the Saint Louis Art Museum.

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