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.

Her reticence sets her apart from other artists of her generation, with their broadcasting careers and lives that face outwards. “Art was never seen as a career when I was studying. Damien [Hirst] had a lot to do with changing the way people thought about it, with his ability to spin anything. People like Grayson Perry, who I shared a studio with back when he was still struggling, great show-offs who want to be in the media all the time… It’s not for me. Damien is a bit quieter now, but you see the residue of him. Tracey [Emin] too, these are people who have done a lot to be out in the world spinning a tale, making art an attractive proposition.”

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