Rachel Whiteread: thinking inside the box

Once a key part of a generation of artists who transformed east London, the sculptor talks to Eva Wiseman about doll’s houses, her fellow YBAs, and why she left Shoreditch.

It’s 24 years since Whiteread, then 30, cast the last remaining property in a demolished terrace in Bow, east London, in liquid concrete, sparking debates about the upheaval of the East End, the politics of “regeneration”, and the point of contemporary art. On the day in 1993 that Whiteread became the first woman to win the Turner Prize, the decision was made to demolish the house.

The odd thing about what she calls her “shy sculptures” – a cast house on an island in New York, one in Norway, another in Norfolk, two in the desert – is that rather than their massiveness, the inversion makes you realise how small a home is, its limits. Whiteread doesn’t do many interviews, and she is reluctant to talk about something even as dinner-partyish as housing, but she will say: “I’m interested in homes, in the politics of housing, but I’m no expert. I simply think it’s everyone’s fundamental right to have a roof over their head. We should be helping everyone to make a life – London can absorb many groups of people.”


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