Rachel Whiteread - Contemporary Art London Friday, October 13, 2006 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    Seoul, Kukje Gallery, Jeff Wall, Rachel Whiteread, September 10-October 19, 2002 (another example exhibited)

  • Catalogue Essay

    As Rachel Whiteread describes in planning Untitled (Plinth), 2001, “After spending time in Trafalgar Square observing the people, traffic, pigeons, architecture, sky and fountains, I became acutely aware of the general chaos of Central London life. I decided that the most appropriate sculpture would be a ‘pause’, a quiet moment for the space. To be honest, I'd never even noticed the plinth in Trafalgar Square. But then when I went to look at it, it's a really beautifully proportioned piece of architecture, actually, an incredibly simple, pure form. And it's empty. And I thought: Well, why not make a kind of monument to the plinth? So that's what it is”.

    In 2001 Rachel Whiteread became the third artist in a series of four to provide a sculpture for the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London. The spot, vacant for 158 years, has been a highly contested public space. At the time she and the other artists earned their commission no sponsor came forward, thus the cost of the pieces was carried out by the artists themselves, their galleries and agents.

    In contrast to plaster, which captures the surface detail only of the mold from which it was cast, Whiteread selects resin as her medium. The end result of her planning and artistic direction was an eleven ton resin cast of the plinth itself, said to be the largest object ever made out of resin. The project, in planning for a few years, took painstaking preparation. The current lot, a one-tenth maquette created in 1999 for the sculpture installed on the fourth plinth, displays the artist’s intent to a perfect degree. The purity and understatement of the simple shape combined with the crystal clear quality of the resin, is typical of Whiteread’s work. Perhaps the most compelling element is the artist’s manipulation of the material—for her, the choice was simple: her art, intended to be seen in daylight, is translucent and captures myriad details throughout the many layers of material. The plinth stands as a silhouette balancing light and dark, contemporary and historical. In a way, the resin also captures the simulacrum Whiteread sought for to begin with: a simple and elegant rendering of the architecture itself-- volumetric, measured, graceful and solid: a monument to the subject it portrays.

    "It's a simple trick, but an effective one, and the associations it conjures — heaviness and lightness, earth and heaven, death and life — are thought-provoking and manifold. Whiteread's Monument, as light and gleaming as the plinth is dark and squat, is the only one of the four commissioned pieces to allude directly to the plinth's defining emptiness. She sees it not as a space to be filled, but as an absence to be acknowledged, and she does it well," (N. Denny, New Statesman, July 9, 2001).


Untitled (Trafalgar Square Plinth)

Plaster and resin sculpture; upper section: polyurethane resin; lower section: jesmonite (plasticized plaster) with acrylic sealant.
35 1/2 x 20 1/4 x 9 3/4 in. (90.2 x 51.4 x 24.8 cm).
Initialed, numbered of 15 and dated “RW 199” on the interior of the lower half of the sculpture. This work is from an edition of 15.

£80,000 - 120,000 ‡♠

Sold for £78,000

Contemporary Art

14 Oct 2006, 7pm