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Barlow won over the art world with her 'nonmonumental' sculptures of monumental scale and humble origins.

Phyllida Barlow, Renowned Sculptor and Art Teacher, Dies Aged 78

Installation view: Phyllida Barlow, glimpse, Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, (17 February–8 May 2022). © Phyllida Barlow. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Zak Kelley.

British artist Phyillda Barlow died yesterday at age 78. The news was confirmed by Hauser & Wirth, the artist's gallery since 2010.

'Phyllida Barlow was a cherished friend as well as a visionary artist,' said Iwan Wirth, co-founder and president of Hauser & Wirth, in a statement. 'Her ideas, knowledge, experience and wry humour were always shared with the most extraordinary warmth. Her generosity of spirit extended through her art, her writings, and her many years of teaching and mentorship.'

Before her own career really took off, Barlow taught generations of artists for four decades, including Rachel Whiteread, Tacita Dean, and Angela De La Cruz when they attended the Slade School of Art.

'There are generations of artists who owe her so much,' Andrew Renton, Professor of Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London, wrote in an Instagram post. 'But also generations of teachers for whom she was more than a role model. She represented a standard of engagement to which we could only aspire.'

Journalist Dale Berning Sawa, who received her MA from the Slade in 2003, echoed that sentiment in the The Guardian, writing Barlow was 'that teacher', that '20, 30, 40 years on into a lifelong battle with art making—or writing, or parenting, or just being a decent human—you're still striving to make something she'd rate.'

Barlow's own work only began to receive widespread recognition after her retirement in 2009, leading to a major solo exhibition at Serpentine Gallery (2010), a Tate Britain Commission (Dock, 2014), and her representation of Britain at the 57th Venice Biennale (folly, 2017).

Barlow navigated the art world with the unwavering self-assurance of someone who had been quietly and tenaciously working on her own. The timing of her recognition was 'perfect', she told The Guardian in 2017.

'I'm ready for it and the work's ready for it. It's ready to fulfil all sorts of ambitions I want for the work. Not for myself—I'm not particularly interested in myself—but I'm interested in what the work can do,' she said.

That confidence can be glimpsed in the engulfing environment of her sculptures, built from cardboard, wood, paper, scrim, flotsam, and styrofoam, just to name a few of the materials Barlow employed in her practice. Despite their enormous scale, Barlow described her work as 'nonmonumental,' rejecting the heroic sleekness of modernist monuments.

Some of Barlow's recent works are currently on view for the coming weeks, including Breach (2022), an installation of fabric, concrete, and timber expanding onto the exhibition hall of the Sprengel Museum Hannover until 19 March; and her solo exhibition untitled: folly; baubles, on view until 28 March at the K11 Musea Opera Theatre in Hong Kong.—[O]

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