What you’re saying is, ‘Commit more fraud because that’s the GDP of Britain: bank fraud… We’re going to impose a fine on you Barclays so go out there and commit fraud more rapidly so that the GDP of the country goes up.’

November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

It began, an idea without a name, in the quiet of Rachel Whiteread’s studio in East London. And it ended several years later, a sculpture called House, demolished in the full glare of the world’s media. House always had the potential to be a contentious work of art. But in my first conversations with Rachel Whiteread in the summer of 1991, it was impossible to imagine that it would be quite as exposed, quite as contentious as things turned out; and that its transition from private projection to public phenomenon would be so dramatic and so quick.

House could have been made elsewhere, in a different place, at a different time; perhaps with another cast list and chorus. Indeed, Whiteread and I had looked at several other terraced houses in North and East London through 1992 without success. At one stage, a condemned house in Islington seemed possible, but the right permissions failed to materialize. Another in Hackney was knocked down before we could make a proposal to the owner. Finally, after months of private persuasion and occasional public meetings, the councillors of Bow Neighbourhood voted by a small majority to give a temporary lease on 193 Grove Road, one of the few remaining houses in what had once been a Victorian terrace. After several months’ more waiting, Whiteread took possession and the physical making of the work began in August 1993. From that moment, House was of a specific place and a particular time. And it was this configuration of time and place, with its attendant contingencies of local and national politics and the added spice of the 1993 Turner Prize which, as much as the physical appearance of the sculpture, created the meaning of House and determined the course of its short life.

House was completed on October 25 1993. There had deliberately been almost no press until one day before. Slowly at first and then more quickly, interest and comment began to grow in the locality and beyond; in the pages of the national press and on television news. Newspaper leaders and letters, columns and cartoons appeared and multiplied. Visitors grew day by day. On November 23 two decisions were made simultaneously in different parts of London. A group of jurors at the Tate Gallery decided that Whiteread had won the 1993 Turner Prize, and a gathering of Bow Neighbourhood Councillors voted that House should be demolished with immediate effect. It was an incendiary combination.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Brittany Markert

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