House by Rachel Whiteread

London, England, UK

Demolished 1994

The Disappointed Tourist: House, Ellen Harvey, 2023. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 24 x 18″ (61 x 46 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

House was a temporary sculpture made by British artist Rachel Whiteread. With the support of the arts organization Artangel, she cast the inside of a to-be-demolished house in concrete and then removed the exterior bricks to reveal the interior. The house was one of a group of council homes that had been slated for demolition and had recently been vacated by Mr. Sidney Gale who had lost his fight against his eviction. The work was both celebrated and controversial and the local council voted to demolish the work on the day that Whiteread won the Turner Prize. House was demolished after standing for only 80 days, ten days fewer than originally agreed upon. This painting is based on a photograph taken by Sue Omerod.

I went to see it at the end of the most miserable year of my life. The past year has been a walk in the park in comparison. It was around Christmas. My sister lived in London and it was thrilling to go to London. I like art and my father’s a builder, so I appreciated “House” on several levels. I wanted to see it. It was light when I got there, and I had a good look at it. I had travelled from Coventry, so I’d made too much of an effort to leave after ten minutes. The others there left when dusk came. The back of the premises is a series of extensions so, in effect, there were three roofs. I could have climbed to the top, but the second level was fine. I sat there, resting against the wall of the top storey bedroom, and thought about the past year and my immediate prospects. I remember struggling to think of five good things from 1994 and being aware that this wasn’t impressive. I had made it memorable. I was upset when it was demolished but I consoled myself with the idea that it is impossible to destroy the space that had been enclosed within. That would remain there forever. Robin C.