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Place finds a home

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Rachel Whiteread, Museum of Childhoon, permanent display, Place (Village)Rachel Whiteread’s celebrated artwork now on permanent display at the Museum of Childhood.

Place (Village) is a sculptural work featuring a ‘community’ of around 150 dolls’ houses which were collected by Whiteread over 20 years.

The artwork will join the 100+ dolls’ houses in the Museum of Childhood’s own collection.

This is a large-scale artwork; an assembly of vintage dolls’ houses in a variety of architectural styles and averaging around one metre high.

The houses sit on stepped platforms, evoking a sprawling hillside ‘community’ and are lit from within, but deserted, their emptiness evoking haunting memories and melancholy.

They are devoid of furniture, but many have wallpaper, carpets, trompe l’oeil curtains and even artwork, echoing the details sometimes found on the surfaces of Whiteread’s cast rooms.

With Place (Village) Whiteread reverses interior and exterior space through lighting instead of through plaster casting.

The variety of architecture represented in the installation, evoking an English suburb, ranges from Georgian mansions to Tudor cottages to Modernist fortresses. Some of the houses are handmade, others manufactured. All were acquired second-hand in antique shops or on websites like eBay.

Place (Village) is on display in the Museum’s mezzanine gallery in a new dedicated space covering 56 square metres.

The artwork was first shown in 2007 in Naples – which reminded Whiteread of Hackney. It has also been shown at London’s Hayward Gallery, at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, each time in a different configuration.

As the Guardian pointed out, it is 24 years since Whiteread, then 30, cast the last remaining property in a demolished terrace in Bow, East London, in liquid concrete, and event which sparked debates about the upheaval of the East End, the politics of “regeneration” – and the point of contemporary art.

On the day in 1993 that Whiteread became the first woman to win the Turner Prize, the decision was made to demolish the house.

In an interview with Whiteread, the Guardian continued: ‘That afternoon she got a call from Bill Drummond of the K Foundation telling her she had been voted their worst artist in the world, and had won a prize of £40,000, double the Turner Prize money.

‘They blackmailed her, she said. If she didn’t leave the Turner party to receive the cash, it would be destroyed.

‘She accepted, donating some of the money to young artists and the rest to Shelter; a televised interview from the following day shows her wide-eyed and knackered, and unready for such attention.

‘Along with Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, Whiteread became one of the Young British Artists who gave contemporary art in the 1990s that mass appeal – and made art fashionable.’

For more information about Place (Village) or the V&A Museum of Childhood click here.

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