Rachel Whiteread Retrospective @ Tate Britain

A metal sign among the found objects, tiny moulds, and notebooks, selected and arranged from across Rachel Whiteread’s 30 year career, reads: ‘Ancient Monuments Acts, 1913 and 1931. Any person who injures or defaces this monument may be fined and ordered to pay the costs of repairs or may be imprisoned.’ The display case is located in the foyer before the exhibition and, along with photographs of Whitereads public installations and a film documenting the construction and demolition of House (1993-4), sets up the retrospective as a study in sculpture as an interrogation of public structures and space. It’s not clear where the metal sign came from, or whether Whiteread found it or removed it from its monument, but either way its removal points to the ephemeral nature of public buildings. Decay, exposure to the elements, or vandalism mean that, Ancient Monuments Acts or no, any structure’s days are numbered.


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