Barbara Walker was born in Birmingham, England, in 1964. She studied at the University of Central England, Birmingham, and completed post-graduate studies at Wolverhampton University. Her work is informed by the social, political and cultural realities that affect her life and the lives of those around her. Growing up in Birmingham, her experiences have directly shaped a practice concerned with issues of class and power, gender, race, representation and belonging. Her figurative drawings and paintings tell contemporary stories hinged on historical circumstances, making them universally understood and reflecting a human perspective on the state of affairs in her native Britain and elsewhere.
In 2023 Walker was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts and shortlisted for the Turner Prize. She was the 2020 Bridget Riley Fellow at the British School at Rome. In 2019 she was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours for services to British Art and in 2017 she exhibited at the 57th Venice Biennale as part of the Diaspora Pavilion. In 2017 she received the Drawing Room Bursary Award and inaugural Evelyn Williams Drawing Award in association with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. She has previously been an artist in residence at Facebook’s headquarters in London.
Walker’s recent solo exhibitions include Cristea Roberts Gallery (2022), Turner Cotemporary, Margate (2019), Jerwood Gallery, Hastings (2018), Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham (2016), James Hockey Gallery at University for the Creative Arts, Surrey (2015) and New Art Gallery, Walsall (2013). Significant group exhibitions in the UK and internationally include Tate, London; Firstsite, Colchester; Arts Exchange, University of Essex; SCAD, Savannah, Georgia; Somerset House, London; Yale Centre for British Art, Connecticut; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Alan Cristea Gallery, London; MEWO Kunsthalle, Memmingen; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham; Modern Art Oxford, Oxford; the Drawing Room, London. In 2018 she participated in the Dakar Biennale, Senegal. In 2020 she took part in the second Lahore Biennale, Pakistan and in 2023 new works are being shown in the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates.
Her work is held in private and public collections including the British Museum, London; Government Art Collection, London; Arts Council England, London; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham; Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry; Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, Clinton NY; and Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut.
Barbara Walker lives and works in Birmingham, England.
One of the world’s best-known prizes for the visual arts, the Turner Prize is awarded to a British artist for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the preceding year as determined by a jury.
Barbara Walker has been shortlisted for Burden of Proof, a new body of drawings reflecting upon the stories and experiences of individuals and families impacted by the Windrush scandal in Britain, exhibited at the Sharjah Biennial 15 earlier this year. The jury applauded Walker’s ability to use portraits of monumental scale to tell stories of a similarly monumental nature, whilst maintaining a profound tenderness and intimacy across the full scope of her work.
The project was commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation with the support of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.
The four shortlisted artists are: Jesse Darling, Ghislaine Leung, Rory Pilgrim and Barbara Walker. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 5 December 2023.
A free exhibition of the Turner Prize nominee’s work will be exhibited at Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, 28 September 2023 – 14 April 2024.
Photo: Angus Mill, 2023.
Barbara Walker removing her wall drawing, Vanishing PointJanuary 5, 2023
Barbara Walker – ‘It’s like life itself, like the air I breathe’October 20, 2023
Barbara Walker: Vanishing PointApril 12, 2022
Barbara Walker removing her wall drawing, Vanishing Point
Barbara Walker – ‘It’s like life itself, like the air I breathe’
News, Events and Museum Exhibitions
Barbara Walker in Black Atlantic: Power, People, Resistance
Drawing acquired by British Museum and exhibited
Barbara Walker’s portrait of her granddaughter to go on show
Barbara Walker joins the Drawing Prize 2023 selection panel
Barbara Walker in Sharjah Biennial 15
Barbara Walker shortlisted for the Turner Prize 2023
Barbara Walker in Dialogues Across Disciplines
Barbara Walker in A Line Around an Idea
Barbara Walker at Coventry Cathedral
Barbara Walker in Arts Council Collection show
Barbara Walker in exhibition at Tate Britain
Barbara Walker’s new portraits for Place, Space and Who
Barbara Walker in Art for Life
New Book | Vitamin D3: Today's Best in Contemporary Drawing
Barbara Walker in Open Your Eyes
Review: "A powerful and human response to a recent political outrage."
Review: “Burden of Proof is made all the more painful by Walker’s straightforward approach.”
Review: “Forms filled, lives erased. They are subtle, scrupulous and haunting.”
Interview: "I wanted to make work that reflected their individual stories, and also the complexities of diasporic identity."
Review: "Work by the British artist Barbara Walker...is a triumph of the show."
News: The Guardian report on pandemic problems and Windrush scandal explored in the Turner Prize 2023
News: The BBC report on the Turner Prize 2023 nominees
Interview: “I am interested in and engaged with lots of practices. Paula Rego is a huge influence.”
Review: “Walker has portrayed each filled-in figure with attentive tenderness.”
Interview: “I use erasure as a metaphor for how the Black community is overlooked, ignored, and even dehumanised by society.”
Interview: ‘Where are the Black people in Old Master paintings?’
Review: ‘Ghosted - Barbara Walker: Vanishing Point.’
Review: ‘Black figures emerge from the footnotes of classical art’
Black British Culture: ‘A Different Perspective: The changing status of Black British art’
Barbara Walker included in Five to Watch
Review: "The space I seek to reclaim is that of visibility"
Interview: “I was keen to convey the feeling of optimism that we all need to get ourselves through these difficult days.”
Exhibitions at Cristea Roberts Gallery
Book: Barbara Walker
The first book dedicated to Barbara Walker’s art includes new writing by Paul Gilroy, Sarah Martin and Aïcha Mehrez, alongside an interview with the artist by Courtney J. Martin. Published by Turner Contemporary.
Winner of the 2023 Historians of British Art Prize for Exemplary Exhibition Catalogue.
- Ali Banisadr
- Georg Baselitz
- Christiane Baumgartner
- Rana Begum
- Pablo Bronstein
- Gordon Cheung
- Rhys Coren
- Michael Craig-Martin
- Dexter Dalwood
- Ian Davenport
- Miriam de Búrca
- Jan Dibbets
- Jim Dine
- Joy Gerrard
- Antony Gormley
- Marie Harnett
- Yinka Ilori
- Idris Khan
- Langlands & Bell
- Richard Long
- Mick Moon
- David Nash
- Paul Noble
- Julian Opie