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Following recent recommendations from Public Health England concerning the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, regrettably Sir John Soane’s Museum is temporarily closed. We will be cancelling or rearranging events scheduled up to 31 May, including this event. We will send further information to those who have already booked tickets.

By Design, a talk series at Sir John Soane’s Museum, in partnership with Luke Irwin, invites internationally renowned designers to discuss their practice through a single object. In this talk, Will Gompertz talks to artist Phyllida Barlow.

Inspired by Sir John Soane’s own extraordinary collection, and co-hosted by Will Gompertz, Arts Editor at the BBC, and Alice Rawsthorn, award-winning design critic and author, the series reflects on the power of objects – large or small, mundane or exceptional, aesthetic or utilitarian – to spark new ideas, and act as a spur for different forms of creativity.

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About the Speakers

Phyllida Barlow

For more than 50 years, British artist Phyllida Barlow has taken inspiration from her surroundings to create imposing installations that can be at once menacing and playful. She creates anti-monumental sculptures from inexpensive, low-grade materials such as cardboard, fabric, plywood, polystyrene, scrim and cement. These constructions are often painted in industrial or vibrant colors, the seams of their construction left at times visible, revealing the means of their making.

Barlow’s restless invented forms stretch the limits of mass, volume and height as they block, straddle and balance precariously. The audience is challenged into a new relationship with the sculptural object, the gallery environment and the world beyond.

‘There’s something about walking around sculpture that has the possibility of being reflective, like walking through a landscape,’ Barlow has said. ‘The largeness of sculpture has that infinite possibility to make one engage beyond just the object itself and into other realms of experience.’

Barlow has exhibited extensively across institutions internationally and in 2017 represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. Barlow was born in 1944 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. She lives and works in London.

Will Gompertz

Will Gompertz is the BBC's first Arts Editor, a senior journalistic role he took up in 2009. As well as regularly reporting on the arts for the main BBC News bulletins, Today Programme and numerous other outlets, Will hosts his own radio show on BBC 5-Live, and has written and presented numerous primetime series for television and radio.

Before joining the BBC, Will spent 7 years as a Director at the Tate Galleries where he was responsible for its BAFTA-winning website and the UK's first Performance Art festival.

In 2012 Will wrote What Are You Looking At?, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on modern art, published by Penguin and subsequently translated into 20 languages. Will's second book, Think Like an Artist, is about creativity and was published by Penguin in 2015. It has been translated into 18 different languages.

Will is a respected and well-known commentator on the Arts, and has written for The Times, The Guardian, and Vanity Fair among many others.

​Event details

The talk will take place in the Museum's Library Dining Room. Doors will open at 6:30pm, with a chance to explore the museum by candlelight. The talk runs from 7pm to 8pm, followed by a drinks reception in the South Drawing Room.

We are in a Grade I listed, 19th-century building, so access is not always straightforward. If you require step-free access or extra assistance, please contact us in advance of your booking on or 020 7405 2107.

Tickets are refundable up to 7 days before the event, after which point they are non-refundable or exchangeable. 

Images: Phyllida Barlow by Ruth Clark © Phyllida Barlow, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Image of Will Gompertz by Christian Sinibaldi.

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Event Info

01 Jun 2020

Doors open at 6.30pm
Talk 7–8pm
Drinks reception 8–9pm