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Rachel Whiteread | Top 100 women

British artist who filled the Tate Turbine hall with boxes and took on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth

An accident of timing led to Whiteread, 48, being grouped into that noisy, boisterous 90s movement, the Young British Artists, but she was the least showy of her peers. Best known for her casts, turning empty space into a solid, some of Whiteread's best work doesn't even exist any more. The piece that won her the Turner prize in 1993, the first woman to win the award, was House, concrete poured into a Victorian terraced house in east London whose walls were then peeled away to reveal the solidified void; it was demolished soon afterwards. After she filled the Turbine hall of the Tate Modern with a landscape of 14,000 white plastic boxes – casts of cardboard boxes – in 2005 for her work Embankment, they were dismantled and recycled.

Whiteread, who was raised in Essex and London, and studied sculpture at the Slade School of Art, is often concerned with the familiarity of domesticity – tables, chairs, rooms – but she can also do art on a big scale, chosen to create Vienna's Holocaust memorial and as one of the artists who created work for Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth. "She has always talked about intimacy and quietness in her work, and yet she is also the only artist of her generation who has tackled these huge public projects. That is a very rare balance," says Mark Francis, director of the Gagosian gallery.


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