Golden Tree of Life to Adorn London Art Gallery

New Work

The facade of London's Whitechapel Gallery will soon be covered with dozens of these beautiful golden leaves on branches.

The Gallery is located deep in the heart of London's gritty east end and has a respected history of bringing 'great art to the people of the East End of London'.

The existing building

Built in 1901, the arts and craft building designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, has a tree of life motif etched into the terracotta panels above the massive front door. This space had always been intended to house a frieze which would convey the gallery's message but it was never completed and instead, a large blank rectangle has remained above the main entrance for more than a hundred years.

The existing Tree of Life motif on the exterior of the building

Rachel Whiteread is the artist. She has lived in the east end, near the gallery, for years. Her work is minimalist and architectural. Inspired by these columns, the new work will celebrate the architectural details.

The existing Tree of Life motif on the exterior of the building

Whiteread is making casts from the existing features from which she will then create clusters of gilded leaves and branches. The many branches will float above the door way and compliment the existing trees on the upper part of the facade. They will catch and reflect the light.

The new work

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.

guisseppe penoneBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0
August, 2012: The Finished Frieze

Negative casts are a hallmark of her work. One of the most famous and controversial Whiteread pieces was the casting of the interior of a house in the east end. It became a subject huge public debate about whether to keep it or knock it down after its display. Art lost and the work is gone.

It's all part of the increased funding for the arts as part of the Olympic art celebration.

Golden Tree of Life to Adorn London Art Gallery
It's a gold leaf tree of life, set to adorn the front entrance to Whitechapel Art Gallery in London.

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