Rachel Whiteread was born in London in 1963. She studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic (1982-85) and sculpture at the Slade School of Art, University College, London (1985-87). Whiteread's first solo exhibition was held at the Carlyle Gallery, London, in 1988, the year after she graduated. The first monumental sculpture that brought her recognition was Ghost 1990, a plaster cast of the interior space of an ordinary room, shown at the Chisenhale Gallery, London. Details of the fireplace with its gas fire, door and window impressions and traces of wallpaper and flakes of colour from the paintwork held the memory of the place. This established Whiteread as an artist whose work was different, and pertinent in its simplicity and directness.
In 1992-93 Rachel Whiteread worked in Berlin on the DAAD Artists' Programme, which afforded her time to develop her sculpture. Works that followed included casts of the outer spaces of mattresses and mortuary slabs, inner spaces of hot-water bottles, undersides of tables and chairs, the spaces beneath floorboards and impressions of books on shelves. These were executed in a variety of materials - plaster, resin, rubber and plastics, in quiet monochrome and jewel-like colour, depending on the medium. Rachel Whiteread's work has been taken up by many of the world's leading collectors, following exhibitions in major centres internationally. In 1997 she represented Britain at the XLVII Venice Biennale. One of her most controversial and poignant works was House 1993-94. A concrete cast of the interior of a nineteenth-century terraced house in the the East End of London, House was the ultimate monumental sculpture. The work was allowed to exist for only a few months, and in spite of massive lobbying to persuade the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to allow it to remain, it was claimed by the bulldozers. Also in 1993, Whiteread was awarded the Turner Prize. She has received many commissions, including the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, and her most recent public sculpture was a clear resin cast of the empty plinth for the Fourth Plinth Project in Trafalgar Square.