Rachel Whiteread. Water Tower. 1998
Director, Glenn Lowry: In 1998, The Public Art Fund invited Rachel Whiteread to make a site-specific work for New York City. Water Tower was made for a rooftop in lower Manhattan but it was acquired by MoMA a few years later. You'll find it outside on the Museum's roof.
Rachel Whiteread: One of my first times in America I noticed the water towers on the roof tops of New York City and I enjoyed these objects. I didn't really know what they were, didn't really know why they were there, but as these weird wooden barrel like objects that sat on top of many roof tops in very awkward ways. It occurred to me that they were like part of the furniture of the city, sort of street benches or, they're just something that no one really took much notice of. Its something that I often do is try and give those places and spaces that have never really had a place in the world some sort of authority and some sort of voice.
So I decided that what I wanted to do was to cast one of these water towers in a clear resin. I wanted to make a jewel on the skyline of Manhattan. So its a single clear plastic casting of a full sized water tower that sat on the roof on the corner of West Broadway and Grand Street.
I had originally thought of making this piece solid but that's technically impossible. So we had to make it empty, so the whole thing is a skin of about four inches all the way around. And it has the texture of the inside of the water tower, so its really about solidifying water and trying to make this water look like it's just frozen in a moment of time. It's like the actual water tower has been stripped away and there's this solid water left behind. And using a material which was completely in tune with the weather so it could take on its surroundings, so on a white day you could hardly see it; on a blue day, it glowed; at night time it kind of disappears, it just becomes like a sort of smudge. And if the moon is bright, it just caresses the side of it and it just completely takes on its environment and becomes part of the sky, which is what I had always intended.