Commissioned by the Public Art Fund and originally installed in 1998 on a rooftop in the Soho neighborhood of New York, Water Tower is Whiteread's first public sculpture to be conceived and displayed in the United States. The British artist scoured the city in search of a quintessentially New York subject. Looking across the East River to Manhattan during a visit to Brooklyn, she admired the water towers perched high above the streets and was drawn to their uniqueness and their ubiquity in the architectural cityscape.
Whiteread is known for her castings in resin and plaster of familiar objects and the spaces they surround, such as the interiors of a bathtub and a row house in London's East End, and for her ability to make people see these objects and spaces anew. Water Tower is a resin cast of the interior of a once-functioning cedar water tower, chosen specifically for the texture this type of wood would impart to the surface. The translucent resin captures the qualities of the surrounding sky; the sculpture’s color and brightness change throughout the day and it becomes a near-invisible whisper at night. Whiteread has called this work "a jewel on the skyline of Manhattan." Soaring and ephemeral, it inspires city–dwellers and visitors alike to look again at the solid, weighty water towers they usually see without noticing.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 171.