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Rachel Whiteread. Water Tower. 1998 109

Translucent resin and painted steel, 12' 2" (370.8 cm) high x 9' (274.3 cm) in diameter. Gift of the Freedman Family in memory of Doris C. and Alan J. Freedman. © 2024 Rachel Whiteread

Artist, Rachel Whiteread: One of my first times in America, I noticed the water towers on the rooftops 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 it’s 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. 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 it’s really about solidifying water and trying to make this water look like it’s just frozen in a moment of time. 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.