British artist Rachel Whiteread unveiled her latest piece today, a frieze decorating the outside wall of London’s Whitechapel Gallery. Tree of Life is the first publicly commissioned piece by Whiteread, who came to prominence in the early ’90s with her sculptural installations like House, a life-sized concrete model of a condemned house in East London. Tree of Life is part of the London 2012 Festival, and made possible with support from the Art Fund.
More photos and a description of the project after the jump.
Originally published on the Whitechapel Gallery website.
British artist Rachel Whiteread has created a new work of art for the building’s façade – her first permanent public commission in the UK.
The Whitechapel Gallery’s 1901 façade incorporates an imposing, yet mysteriously blank rectangle. It was originally conceived for a mosaic, which proved too large and expensive. Over a century later the frieze is now completed by one of Britain’s most important artists.
Whiteread is internationally renowned for her sculpture which often takes existing architectural structures as its starting point. She came to prominence in 1993, with her cast of an entire Victorian house in east London, where she lives and works. Although this was dismantled, her Holocaust Memorial in Vienna and Water Tower in New York remain as permanent public sculptures.
The Gallery’s towers each feature a Tree of Life – an Arts and Crafts motif symbolizing social renewal through the arts. For this new work of art Whiteread has cast their leaves in bronze to create an exhilarating flurry across the frieze. Four reliefs, casts of windows, stand as reminders of previous architectural interventions. Inspired by the tenacious presence of urban plants like buddlea, which the artist calls ‘Hackney weed’, Whiteread has covered the leaves and branches in gold leaf, making them part of London’s rooftop repertoire of gilded angels, heraldic animals and crests.
The commission is made possible by the Art Fund and is part of the London 2012 Festival, creating a lasting artistic legacy for one of the city’s most important streets.
The Art Fund, Arts Council England, Lottery Fund, The Henry Moore Foundation and Mayor Of London.