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Award-winning artist to ‘finish’ Whitechapel gallery frieze

PUBLISHED: 09:52 10 February 2012 | UPDATED: 11:04 10 February 2012

Artist Rachel Whiteread with her poster, LOndOn 2012, that has been unveiled as one of the official posters for the London Olympics.

Artist Rachel Whiteread with her poster, LOndOn 2012, that has been unveiled as one of the official posters for the London Olympics.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Turner-prize wining artist Rachel Whiteread has been commissioned to produce an artwork on the front of the Whitechapel Gallery.

In what will be the East End artist’s first ever public commission in the UK, Ms Whiteread will complete a frieze in a large blank rectangle above the main entrance, as part of the London 2012 Festival.

The orginal plans for the Grade II* listed building on Whitechapel High Street, built in 1901 and designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, show the space being covered by a frieze. This artwork was to embody the Gallery’s aim of bringing great art to the people of London.

Using this space, Ms Whiteread, who came to prominence for making a life-sized cast of the interior of a condemned terraced house, has used a tree of life motif, which is part of the building as her inspiration.

She is using the techniques for which she won the most prestigious prize in modern art, by making casts from existing features of the building, These will be used to create clusters of gilded leaves and branches which catch and reflect light as a motif that floats above the existing trees on the upper part of the façade. Four negative casts of existing Gallery windows in terracotta will be located centrally within the recessed panel area between the towers, as a formal counterpoint to the leaf elements.

Rachel Whiteread, artist, said: “Having lived in this area of London for so long I feel very connected to the Whitechapel Gallery and I hope my work will have a positive and lasting impact for the area and communities here.”

Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery, said: “The Whitechapel Gallery has been the artist’s gallery for over a century, so it is truly fitting to have a major new work of art for our facade created by Rachel Whiteread, one of Britain’s leading artists. Having lived near the gallery for 25 Years it’s wonderful that Rachel’s work will become part of the fabric of the building for future generations to enjoy. Her minimalist aesthetic and use of existing architectural forms as the departure point for her sculpture are the perfect fit for this commission.”

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