Phyllida Barlow

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Phyllida Barlow
Born 4 April 1944
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Nationality British
Education Chelsea College of Art, Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London
Known for Sculpture

Phyllida Barlow CBE RA (born 1944 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England) is a British artist.[1] Barlow studied at Chelsea College of Art (1960–63) and the Slade School of Art (1963–66).[2] After joining the staff in the late 1960s, Barlow taught at the Slade School of Art for more than forty years before retiring in 2009 and is now Emerita Professor of Fine Art. Phyllida Barlow has had an important influence on younger generations of artists through her work and long teaching career in London art schools. At the Slade School of Fine Art, her students included Turner Prize-winning and nominated artists Rachel Whiteread and Angela de la Cruz.[3] In 2011 Barlow became a Royal Academician and in 2015 she was made a CBE for her services to the arts in the Queen's New Year's Honours.[4] In 2017, Barlow represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.[5]

Installation view, 'Phyllida Barlow. RIG', Hauser & Wirth, London, England, 2011

Early life and education[edit]

Although born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1944 (as her psychiatrist father Erasmus Darwin Barlow, a great-grandson of Charles Darwin, was stationed there at the time), Barlow was brought up in London. She studied at Chelsea College of Art (1960–63) under the tutelage of George Fullard who was to influence Barlow's perception of what sculpture can be. “Fullard, among others, was able to impart that the act of making was in itself an adventure. A sculpture that falls over or breaks is just as exciting as one that reveals itself perfectly formed. All the acts of making in the world are there to be plundered and contain within themselves the potential to be transferred to the studio and adapted.”[6]

Whilst studying at Chelsea, Barlow met her husband artist and writer Fabian Peake, the son of Mervyn Peake, author of Gormenghast. She later attended the Slade School of Fine Art from 1963–66 to further study sculpture. Barlow and her husband have five children together.


"Maybe I don't think enough about beauty in my work because I'm so curious about other qualities, abstract qualities of time, weight, balance, rhythm; collapse and fatigue versus the more upright dynamic notions of maybe posture...the state that something might be in. Is it growing or shrinking, is it going up or down, is it folding or unfolding?" – Phyllida Barlow, The Guardian 2016.[7]

Best known for her colossal sculptural projects, Barlow uses "a distinctive vocabulary of inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint" to create striking sculptures.[8] Drawing on memories of familiar objects from her surroundings, Barlow's practice is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition characterised by her physical experience of handling materials, which she transforms through processes of layering, accumulation and juxtaposition.[9] "Obtrusive and invasive, Barlow's large-scale sculptural objects are frequently arranged in complex installations in which mass and volume seem to be at odds with the space around them. Their role is restless and unpredictable: they block, interrupt, intervene, straddle and perch, both dictating and challenging the experience of viewing."[10] Her constructions are often crudely painted in industrial or synthetic colours, resulting in abstract, seemingly unstable forms.

Since 2010, Barlow has been represented by Hauser & Wirth. Barlow's work has been presented in solo exhibitions around the world. In 2014 Barlow was commissioned to create new work for the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain, London, England.

In 2016, Barlow will present a solo exhibition of new work at the Kunsthalle Zurich. Barlow is one of four artists to be nominated for the inaugural Hepworth prize, the UK's first prize for sculpture, and her work will be on display at the Hepworth Wakefield from October 2016.[11]

Selected solo exhibitions[edit]


  • 57th Biennale di Venezia, British Pavilion, Venice, Italy


  • Kunsthalle Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland



  • Tate Britain, 'Duveen Commission: Phyllida Barlow. dock', London, England
  • Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 'GIG', Somerset, England


  • Des Moines Art Center, 'scree', Des Moines, USA
  • Norton Museum of Art, 'HOARD', West Palm Beach, USA


  • New Museum, 'siege', New York, USA
  • Henry Moore Institute, 'Phyllida Barlow: Bad Copies', Leeds, England
  • Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, 'BRINK', Aachen, Germany


  • Hauser & Wirth, 'RIG', London, England
  • Kunstverein Nürnberg, 'Cast', Nuremberg, Germany


  • Studio Voltaire, 'BLUFF', London, England
  • BAWAG Contemporary, 'STREET', Vienna, Austria



Selected group exhibitions[edit]


  • Hepworth Wakefield, 'The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture', Wakefield, England
  • Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, 'Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women', 1947 – 2016', Los Angeles, USA
  • Arter, 'Not All That Falls Has Wings', Istanbul, Turkey


  • Carnegie Museum of Art, 'Carnegie International', Pittsburgh, USA
  • 55th International Art Exhibition – Venice Biennale, 'The Encyclopedic Palace', Venice, Italy


  • Mystetskyi Arsenal, 'First International Biennale of Contemporary Art: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times. Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art', Kiev, Ukraine


  • Haus der Kunst, 'Sculptural Acts', Munich, Germany
  • Museum Ludwig, 'Before the Law', Cologne, Germany


Further reading[edit]

  • Barlow, Phyllida, Phyllida Barlow: Mix. Vienna: Verlag Für Moderne Kunst (2015) ISBN 978-3-903004-70-2
  • Bradley, Fiona (ed.), Phyllida Barlow: Sculpture 1963 – 2015. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz (2015) ISBN 978-3-7757-4011-1
  • Harrison, Sara (ed.), Phyllida Barlow: Fifty Years of Drawings. Zurich: JRP|Ringier (2014) ISBN 978-3-03764-366-2
  • Vicario, Gilbert (ed.), Phyllida Barlow: Scree. Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center (2013) ISBN 978-1-879003-67-5
  • Brigitte Franzen (ed.) Phyllida Barlow: Brink. Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König (2013) ISBN 978-3-86335-272-1
  • Feuvre, Lisa Le (ed.), Bad Copies: The Drawings of Phyllida Barlow. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute (2012) ISBN 978-1-905462-38-4
  • Phillips, Lisa, Carrion-Murayari, Gary (eds.), Phyllida Barlow: Siege. New York: New Museum (2012) ISBN 978-0-9854485-1-6
  • Baghramian, Nairy; Barlow, Phyllida; Peyton-Jones, Julia; Obrist, Hans-Ulrich (et al.) Nairy Baghramian and Phyllida Barlow. Cologne; London: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König (2010) ISBN 978-3-86560-839-0
  • Simpson, Ronnie, Phyllida Barlow: STINT. Warwick: Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre (2008) ISBN 978-0-902683-89-1
  • Godfrey, Mark; Wood, John (et al.). Objects for...and Other Things Phyllida Barlow. London: Black Dog Publishing (2004) ISBN 978-1-901033-59-5


External links[edit]