Phyllida Barlow Probes the Truth of Bodies on Display

VIDEO: In this Frieze Masters talk, the sculptor discusses the power of museum walls.


The talk series at Frieze Masters, which also includes discussions with artists William Kentridge and Edmund de Waal, was a new addition to the talks program at Frieze London, with support by Gucci and artnet. In this third talk of the series, Phyllida Barlow speaks with Luke Syson, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The London-based Barlow studied at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London, and then the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where she later became a professor. A professor of hers at Chelsea, sculptor George Fullard, first introduced her to employ unconventional materials in her work. Teaching at Slade for more than 40 years, Barlow has mentored artists such as Douglas Gordon, Tacita Dean, and Rachel Whiteread.

Usingf re-contextualized materials, her large-scale sculptural artworks take on the experience of space and material as its subject matter. She refers to them as “anti-monumental” sculptures because their identities as monuments are seemingly eroded by her use of low-grade materials, including scrim, cement, plywood, fabric, and cardboard. Her works on paper, although separate from her sculptures, share the unique rough aesthetic of her three-dimensional works.

As an artist, she spent a majority of her career in relative obscurity, juggling both studio work and the responsibilities of professorship. It was only during her retirement that the art world took notice of her body of drawings and sculptures.

Barlow was elected Royal Academician in 2011. The following year, she was awarded the Aachen Art Prize, for her contributions to contemporary art. Her work has been exhibited at Tate Britain, the Venice Biennale, Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Des Moines Art Center, Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, the New Museum, the Ludwig Forum for International Art, the Kunstverein Nürnberg, BAWAG Contemporary in Vienna, and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

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