Rachel Whiteread was born in London. She spent the early part of her life living in the Essex countryside before her parents’ return to London. Her mother was also an artist and her father a Geography teacher. She studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic before studying sculpture at the Slade School of art. She is renowned for casting the spaces created by domestic objects and her work is often connected with ideas about death and absence. These connections became more significant after the loss of her mother in 2003, which had a profound effect on her work.
She is considered one of the UK’s leading contemporary sculptors. Her name became national news in the 90s when she created probably her most renowned work House. This was the cast of a council house, 193 Grove Road in London which was due for demolition. The work sparked a huge amount of controversy earning equal amounts of praise and derision from critics and the public alike. She won the Turner Prize in 1993 for House which was demolished by the council in 1994 despite efforts to save it.
She has been commissioned for several prestigious public commissions including Embankment a work for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, a memorial to mark the Holocaust, in Judenplatz in Vienna and in 2001 she produced Untitled Monument also known as Plinth or Inverted Plinth for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. This piece, a copy of the actual plinth upon which the work was due to sit, done in resin, was at the time the largest object ever created in the material and Whiteread had to overcome several technological problems before achieving the desired result. She also raised the not insubstantial sum of £225,000 for the work’s production herself by selling small maquettes of the work.
In recent works Whiteread has continued to explore the possibilities offered by casting using sheds, doors and windows. She continues to work and live in London and her work is owned by many public and private collections nationally and internationally.