The first woman to win the Turner Prize has said collecting her damehood from the Prince of Wales was a “nerve-wracking but nice” experience.
Dame Rachel Whiteread was presented with the honour for her services to art by Charles during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
The 56-year-old artist, who won the Turner Prize in 1993 for her life-size concrete cast of a condemned terraced house in London’s East End, said the prince was “very respectful” and “obviously” had an interest in the arts.
She said: “(Receiving this honour) is lovely. It’s funny because a lot of people have said, ‘I always thought you were a dame, which is funny because I must have acted like it’.
What's great is getting the arts noticed and women artists noticed, because very often they are not given so much attention as their male counterpartsDame Rachel Whiteread
“But what’s great is getting the arts noticed and women artists noticed, because very often they are not given so much attention as their male counterparts.”
Dame Rachel said she spoke to Charles about Nissen huts – prefabricated steel structures used extensively by the military during the Second World War – after she was commissioned to make one in Yorkshire’s Dalby Forest for the Forestry Commission’s 100th anniversary in 2019.
She said: “We had a chat about Nissen huts because I made one for the war centenary out of concrete up in a forest in Yorkshire, and he mentioned he had to live in one when he was a child at school.”
The Essex-born artist, who now lives in Highgate, north London, said she was taking a “breather” from her work, having recently moved studios and completed a “very big” exhibition held at the Tate gallery and two other venues.
Dame Rachel is behind a number of other public art commissions, including a Holocaust memorial in Vienna, her Fourth Plinth sculpture in Trafalgar Square – a cast of the plinth itself – and Water Tower in New York.