On the lawn in front on the stone neoclassical façade is a chicken shed, a rather strange find in the centre of London, but closer inspection reveals it’s not actually a chicken shed, it’s a cast of the space inside the shed, a new sculpture from Rachel Whiteread as she continues to record buildings through the spaces inside and the marks which occupants have left on them.
Up the stone stairs and through the portico of Tate Britain into the lofty Duveen Galleries where the floor is laid out in a grid of One Hundred Spaces, each of the casts having the underside of a found chair, bearing the marks and wear of previous owners. The chicken shed and the hundred spaces announce the arrival of Tate Britain’s new exhibition of 30 years of Rachel Whiteread’s work.
Further into the Duveen Galleries are sculptures from the Tate’s Collection selected by Whiteread and, under the geometric concrete ceiling of the 1970’s extension, the major exhibition is centred on the large sculptures Untitled (Room 101) (cast from a room in the former BBC HQ), Untitled (Stairs), Untitled (Book Corridors) developed in conjunction with her Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, Untitled (Floor) and Untitled (Nine Tables). Alongside are casts of doors, windows, furniture, mattresses, hot-water bottles and items relating to Whiteread’s own life, including packing boxes from moving her home and studio and clearing out a lifetime of memories after the death of her mother.
Drawings link to many of the sculptures and photographs show urban and rural settings for her sculptures, in contrast to the Tate’s gallery environment, the Holocaust Museum in Vienna and the decoration of the upper level of the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Also in show are items selected from her studio providing an insight into her work and life.
Whiteread was the first woman to win the Turner prize in 1993 with her style which creates solid from space while recording the marks and wear left by human activity. The question at the end of the exhibition is what is next? It is tempting to think that she might create the space of an art gallery, complete with the impressions of the artworks on the wall – perhaps from the Tate itself?