Keeping up with the Smiths: a London gallery unites artists with the same surname

Keeping up with the Smiths: a London gallery unites artists with the same surname

What’s in a name? It’s a family affair with a twist at Marlborough’s summer group exhibition

Smith may be among the most common surname in the western world, but there’s nothing generic about the eclectic clique of more than 30 artists who have come together for an unlikely family reunion at London gallery Marlborough. Bridging multiple generations, disciplines and styles, ‘The Smiths’ includes work by both household names and less familiar artists exhibiting side by side.

The summer group exhibition stemmed from a debate between Marlborough director Pascal Spengemann and Maurizio Cattelan about whether interesting connections might emerge from an arbitrary common thread. When the Italian art provocateur revealed he had always wanted to stage a show with a line-up of Smiths, the gallery set to work realising it.

Wheels of Fortune, 2019, by Emily Mae Smith, oil on linen. Courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery

Among the more eminent Smiths on view, there’s an unassuming gelatin silver print by musician and poet Patti Smith; a mixed media floral collage by fashion designer (and gallery neighbour) Sir Paul Smith; a haunting Lewis Carroll-inspired print from Kiki Smith; and a delicate copperplate etching suspended from the gallery ceiling by Anj Smith. John Smith’s 1986 video work pierces the space with a reverberating (albeit distracting) ohm chant, drawing attention to Joshua Smith’s abstract canvas and Harry Smith’s intricate collotype, which sits adjacent.

Bob and Roberta Smith asks ‘R U Bobtimistic?’ in his series of placards, Make Your Own Damn Art while opposite (by way of Adam Parker Smith’s inflatable dolphin), Richard Smith’s striking canvas Passerby (1969) is seemingly peeling off the gallery walls. But it’s Matt Sheridan Smith’s work – a makeshift face with a banana mouth drooping in disappointment – that really captures the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the show. The art world is absurd, and maybe it’s Smiths who do have more fun. §

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