Tree of Life the UK’s favourite work of art

The legacy of the London 2012 Games isn’t exclusively related to sports. One of the brilliant things to come out of this huge event is the investment in arts and culture.
One of the things that came into existence was a powerful work of art by the sculptor Rachel Whiteread. Commissioned as part of the London 2012 Festival, which was one facet of the Cultural Olympiad, the artist created a permanent work above the entrance to the Whitechapel Gallery.
The frieze, which is known as the Tree of Life, features splashes of gold leaves – that were cast in bronze – and is a beautiful addition to the architecture of the gallery, making the rudimentary activity of entering into a building a much more pleasant experience.
It has had such an impact that it has been named the UK’s favourite work of art that was supported by the Art Fund in 2012. Of her inspiration for the design, Whiteread has said that it is mixed and includes the mythological tree itself and “Hackney weed”, urban plants that grow on buildings in the area.
“I don’t think there’s anything profound about the work,” she told the BBC at the time of its unveiling.”It’s connected with the architecture, the sociology and anthropology of the area. I’ve worked with the local foundry, so it’s all very much East End-based.”
Titian’s breathtaking Diana and Callisto was voted in as the public’s second favourite work of art, after it was saved for the country this year (it is now jointly owned by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland).
It makes a perfect accompaniment to the artist’s other masterpiece, Diana and Actaeon, which again was a joint acquisition by the galleries. That these two works of art now have a permanent home in the UK is beyond amazing.
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare, which was originally commissioned to be one of the works of art shown on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, came in third place, followed by Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences, a beautiful series of tapestries that examines social classes.
“This year has been a golden year for acquisitions and the Art Fund has helped UK museums add a dazzling variety of work to their collections – from Old Masters, including exceptional paintings by Titian and Poussin, to new work by artists including Grayson Perry and Roger Hiorns,” said Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund.
Cadogan Tate can ship works of art from London to your chosen destination anywhere in the world.