Phyllida Barlow: folly at the British Pavilion at the 57th Venice International Art Biennale
★★★★★ "There’s an exuberant, messy physicality to this work that flies in the face of the clinical neatness of so much contemporary art... A wonderland of trashed surfaces and junkyard materials." Telegraph
★★★★ "Barlow’s folly harks back to a kind of sculpture-making, and a sense of physical, tactile presence, that belongs to a different time. This makes Barlow stand out." Guardian
★★★★ "Subtle hints on a mighty scale in Venice" Evening Standard
Read Charlotte Higgins' Long Read on Phyllida Barlow in the Guardian
British artist Phyllida Barlow’s ambitious installation for the British Pavilion, folly, playfully challenges audiences to explore their own understanding of sculpture.
Barlow’s sculptures inhabit the entire Pavilion, reaching up to the roof and even spilling outside. In the central gallery, she encourages us to take on the role of explorer, picking our way around a sculptural labyrinth of densely-packed towering columns.
The word folly has several meanings and the exhibition also explores dualities, such as fun and foreboding. Brightly coloured baubles jostle joyfully, yet these bulging forms also have a sinister quality as they press towards visitors and dominate the space. Sculptures resembling chairs on a fairground ride allude to festivity yet their folded forms imply decay and desolation.
Barlow enjoys juxtaposing familiar objects with abstract sculptural forms - a gnarled anvil sits on dismembered pianos in piano/anvil and the cast concrete holedhoarding outside the Pavilion resembles a billboard, surrounded by abandoned debris shaped like shoes, tyres and placards. The dark grey used in these sculptures, reminiscent of the urban environment, is offset by bold colours, with pinks, reds and oranges punctuating the works.
Barlow challenges the limits and possibilities of cheap, everyday materials, such as timber, concrete and fabric. Her bold installation feels monumentally vast but the sculptures remain grounded by a distinctly human presence evident in their creation.
Phyllida Barlow: folly is commissioned by the British Council for the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, 2017.
Commissioner: Emma Dexter
Deputy Commissioner: Gemma Hollington
Curators: Delphine Allier, Harriet Cooper
Find out more abou the exhibition and watch all the films on our UK at the Venice Biennale website
To form material such as molten metal, liquid plaster or liquid plastic into a three-dimensional shape, by pouring into a mould. Also see Lost-wax casting.
Existing or coming into being at the same period; of today or of the present. The term that designates art being made today.
An artwork comprised of many and various elements of miscellaneous materials (see mixed media), light and sound, which is conceived for and occupies an entire space, gallery or site. The viewer can often enter or walk around the installation. Installations may only exist as long as they are installed, but can be re-created in different sites. Installation art emerged in the 1960s out of Environmental Art (works of art which are three-dimensional environments), but it was not until the 1970s that the term came into common use and not until the late 1980s that artists started to specialise in this kind of work, creating a genre of ‘Installation Art’. The term can also be applied to the arrangement of selected art works in an exhibition.
A three-dimensional work of art. Such works may be carved, modelled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, relief, and made in a huge variety of media. Contemporary practice also includes live elements, as in Gilbert & George 'Living Sculpture' as well as broadcast work, radio or sound sculpture.