Rachel Whiteread has breathed new life in to Whitechapel High Street with her transformation of the façade of the Whitechapel Gallery.
Delicate sculptures of gold leaves are scattered over the top half of the historic gallery, complementing the building’s simple architecture.
Four casts of windows sit centrally in between the rectangular pillars. They are reminiscent of Whiteread’s previous work: House, with which she first came to prominence, when she cast an entire Victorian house in East London.
This permanent installation, by the first woman to win the Turner Prize in 1993, has been named the Tree of Life and symbolises ‘social renewal through the arts.’ It sits in the place that had always been intended for a frieze but was left empty when funds dried up.
Whiteread often uses architecture as a source of inspiration for her work so the opportunity to use her sculpture to revive this monumental building on one of the East End’s busiest streets seemed like a natural calling.
Rachel Whiteread said: “Having been a resident of the East End for over 25 years I have a deep connection with the area and its cultural depths and diversity.”
“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 gallery’s facade, contributing to the fabric and architecture of this historic landmark and London’s cultural legacy.”
This important commission, made possible by the Art Fund, is part of the Whitechapel’s contribution to the London 2012 Festival. This beautiful sculpture will be a permanent fixture.
Iwona Blazwick, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, said: “This new work of art is now part of the fabric of the building for future generations to enjoy as they walk along the busy high street and simply start looking up.”
Danny Boyle, filmmaker and London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Artistic Director, unveiled Whiteread’s work and is a massive supporter, he said: “It’s wonderful that her next door neighbour, the Whitechapel, will now be the permanent site for her latest work.”
By Louisa Plumstead