Rachel Whiteread, sculptor of negative spaces, will soon leave a permanent mark on the facade of London’s Whitechapel Gallery. Though the artist has undertaken public projects in London before, including her early House (1993)—a concrete cast of the interior of an East End Victorian house—this will be her first permanent piece in her home country. Even Vienna has a permanent work by the Brit. A memorial to Holocaust victims on the Judenplatz, the one-story concrete “library” features gridded walls that resemble rows of books, spines facing inward.
Whitechapel’s building is a landmarked Arts and Crafts structure built in 1901. Never completed was a frieze on the facade, reflecting the gallery’s mission: “to bring great art to the people of London.” In 2009, the Whitechapel completed a major overhaul, expanding into an adjacent brick building that previously held the Passmore Edwards Library, since relocated. Now, with gilded leaves and branches, Whiteread is creating her own version a Tree of Life motif already utilized in the brick structure.
Whiteread’s new work will be unveiled in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Art Fund, a nonprofit supported by sales of the National Art Pass, provided partial support, about $317,000, for the commission.