13 May - 26 November 2017
★★★★★ "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