Phyllida Barlow: PRANK

On June 6, 2023, Public Art Fund will debut PRANK, the late British artist Phyllida Barlow’s final series of large-scale freestanding sculptures. This exhibition of seven new steel and fiberglass sculptures in City Hall Park offers the opportunity to experience her rich artistic legacy in the public sphere. As Barlow’s first series of outdoor sculptures made from robust long-lasting materials, PRANK marks a notable departure from the artist’s typical use of materials suitable for indoor display, extending her highly influential practice into the realm of public art.

The sculptures in PRANK adapt everyday forms such as domestic furniture stacked in unexpected, gravity-defying compositions. Each is precariously surmounted by a different variation on the form that has become known as Barlow’s “rabbit ears”.  Inhabiting City Hall Park with whimsy and mischief, the seven sculptures in PRANK continue Barlow’s daring exploration of what art objects look like and where they belong. The series expresses Barlow’s distinctive artistic language—exuding irreverence while pushing conceptual and formal boundaries by fusing disparate elements to create surprising synergies. 

Phyllida Barlow: PRANK is curated by Public Art Fund Artistic & Executive Director Nicholas Baume with initial development by former Public Art Fund Curator Daniel S. Palmer.

About the Artist

Phyllida Barlow (1944–2023, Newcastle, England) lived and worked in London. Influenced by the early 1960s New Generation Sculpture exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery in London, Barlow began experimenting early in her career with the sculptural potential of materials unassociated with traditional sculpture. Prior to receiving exhibitions in major museums and galleries, Barlow utilized public and temporary spaces to show her work, developing her exploration of physical space and challenging conventional notions of where sculpture could exist. For forty years, Barlow also worked as a teacher, fostering some of Britain’s most distinguished artists. Since 2009, she worked exclusively on her art practice and exhibited her work widely in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Barlow studied at Chelsea College of Art (1960–1963) and the Slade School of Art (1963 – 1966). She later taught at both schools and was Professor of Fine Art and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the latter until 2009. Major awards include receiving the Aachen Art Prize (2012) and being named a Royal Academician (2011). She has had major exhibitions at Royal Academy of the Arts, London, England (2019); Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh, Scotland (2018); Turner Contemporary, Margate, England (2017); Venice Biennale, Italy (2013, 2017); Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas (2015); Tate Britain, London, England (2014); and New Museum, New York (2012), among others. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honors in 2021.