ST. LOUIS, Dec. 21, 2016—The Saint Louis Art Museum recently acquired Detached III, a large-scale sculpture by the English artist Rachel Whiteread. The sculpture will be installed in the museum’s Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden.
In a process Whiteread has described as “mummifying the air,” she creates casts of the negative spaces under and inside everyday objects and structures. In scale and surface detail, the sculptures are uncannily faithful to their molds.
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Detached III is part of a series of concrete sculptures depicting the space within garden sheds. In the designated installation site, Detached III would play off both the geometry of the trees in the sculpture garden as well as the East Building, a 2013 expansion designed by David Chipperfield.
Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, said the acquisition underscores the museum’s commitment to building its collection through strategic acquisitions.
“Detached III complements the museum’s strong holdings of minimalist sculpture, including masterworks by Donald Judd and Richard Serra, as well as its collection of outdoor sculpture by British artists, including Anthony Caro, Andy Goldsworthy and Henry Moore,” Benjamin said.
While the museum’s collection includes sculptures by women artists like Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith, Detached III would be the first work by a woman to be installed in the Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden, which opened in 2015.
By literally giving concrete form to spaces that were once lived in or used, Whiteread creates sculpture that embraces the visual language of Minimalism while offering personal, poignant and poetic meanings, said Simon Kelly, the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art.
“From a distance, the sculpture has an abstract, minimalist quality,” Kelly said. “But when seen close up, the casting of fine details like wood grain gives the work an organic, surprisingly intimate character.’
Whiteread, 53, is considered one of the Young British Artists, or YBAs, a group of artists working and exhibiting in London in the 1990s that included Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Chris Ofili and others. In 1993, Whiteread became the first woman to receive the Turner Prize for House, a scale cast of the interior of a condemned Victorian terrace house in London’s East End.
Other major public projects include the Holocaust memorial at Vienna’s Judenplatz, which she completed in 2000. A large and austere square structure made of concrete, the memorial resembles the cast interior of a library. Recently, she has focused on casting works from unassuming structures, such as the Gran Boathouse (2010), a cast of a boathouse on the edge of Norway’s Randsfjorden, and Cabin (2016), Whiteread’s first permanent site-specific commission on Governors Island in New York Harbor.
A retrospective exhibition of Whiteread’s work will open at London’s Tate Britain next year.
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