Born in Tunisia in 1934, Phillip King came to England in 1945. After completing a degree in modern languages at Cambridge University, he went on to study sculpture at St Martin’s College as a pupil of Anthony Caro, where he began making clay and plaster sculpture of a Brutalist-Surrealist type. From 1958 to 1959 he worked as an assistant to Henry Moore.
Phillip King was a Trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1967 to 1969. He has taught at St Martins School of Art, the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin and at the Royal College of Art, London where he was made Professor Emeritus in 1990. He went on to be elected Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools, London in 1990, a post which he held until his election as President of the Royal Academy in 1999.
His first solo show was in 1964 at the Rowan Gallery, where he has since continued to exhibit and in 1968 he represented Britain with Bridget Riley at the Venice Biennale. He established a major reputation in both group and solo shows nationally and internationally using a variety of materials from fibreglass and metal through to wood and slate. He has had several retrospective exhibitions, including one at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1968) and at the Hayward Gallery (1981). More recently retrospectives of his work have been held at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1997, and most significantly at Forte de Belvedere, Florence in 1997 as only the second English sculptor to be given this honour, the first being Henry Moore.