Phyllida Barlow Announced to represent Britain at the 57th Venice Biennale

Phyllida Barlow the sculptor best known for large scale installations, has been selected to create a key solo show for the British Pavilion at the world renowned Venice Biennale. The festival opens 13 May to 26 November 2017. Barlow said it was “an extraordinary privilege and honour” “I am astonished, thrilled and of course hugely excited. It is going to be a remarkable experience to begin to consider the work for the imposing architecture of the British pavilion. “I cannot imagine a more invigorating and wonderful challenge. The international diversity for which the Biennale is so renowned within the particular context of Venice is a unique and stimulating creative opportunity beyond my wildest dreams.”

Barlow’s monumental sculptural works are fashioned from everyday household or DIY materials including plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint. Her career has spanned over four decades and her work has been presented in solo exhibitions around the world. Her latest exhibition is the recently opened Artist Rooms at Tate Modern.

British Council director Emma Dexter, who is chair of the Venice Biennale Selection Committee, said she was “truly delighted” at the choice. “Barlow’s imposing sculptures and installations have enthralled and intrigued audiences around the globe in recent years. “Her work combines physical impressiveness with intricate and highly considered details with regard to materials and techniques, allowing questions of making and experimentation to be at the core of her work. “Barlow transforms and dynamically alters every exhibition space she encounters. I am hugely excited at the prospect of seeing what she will bring to the neo-classicism of the British Pavilion.” 

Phyllida Barlow (born 1944 Newcastle) studied at Chelsea School of Art, London (1960–63) and then the Slade School of Fine Art, London (1963–66) where she later became a Professor. She was awarded a CBE for services to art in the New Year’s Honours list (2016) has for over four decades made imposing, large scale sculptural installations using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene, plaster, scrim and cement. Her distinctive work is focused on her experimentation with these materials, to create bold and colourful three-dimensional collages.

Drawing on memories of familiar objects from her surroundings, Barlow’s tactile and seemingly unstable sculptures often contrast with the permanence and traditions of monumental sculpture. In works such as Peninsula at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in 2004 or Stint at Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre in 2008, a cacophony of form, colour and materials filled the spaces. In Barlow’sTIP for the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, timber lengths wrapped in mesh, cement and brightly coloured fabric ribbons cascaded en masse across the museum plaza to the entrance. In 2014, Barlow’s dock was created for the annual Tate Britain Commission, supported by Sotheby’s, and filled the Duveen Galleries.