In 1990, at the age of 27, Rachel Whiteread made Ghost, her breakthrough work, by casting in plaster the interior of a Victorian living room at 486 Archway Road in North London. In Whiteread’s words, Ghost causes the "viewer to become the wall." Approximately nine feet high, eleven and a half feet wide, and ten feet deep, Ghost is made of four tiers of stacked plaster panels bearing the impressions of the room’s interior surfaces, facing outward toward the viewer. A conceptual innovation, Ghost creates a positive room-sized object from a negative space. From this disorienting sculpture emerge recognizable forms of the fireplace (complete with soot), the textured grain of skirting boards, and the smooth surface of a window. Whiteread wrote of her intent to "mummify the air in the room," an articulation of the memorial tones evoked by this quiet, mausoleum-like work.
Whiteread’s remarkably consistent practice of indexing domestic spaces (rooms, staircases, a house), furniture (chairs, tables), and containers (bookcases, cardboard boxes) opens these life-casts, like Ghost, to new possibilities. By constantly returning to these forms, Whiteread’s compelling art ultimately gives shape to a new awareness of the changing phenomena of the everyday. She has worked on every scale, defining the space between positives and negatives, public and private, and manufactured and handmade objects, always with concision, intelligence, beauty, and power.