How Artist Richard Smith’s Signature Work Went From the Tate to Loewe’s Miami Design District

The work will be on display for Loewe's "Chance Encounters III" exhibition, presenting three unique artists at the label's Miami Design District store.

In the year since the British artist Richard Smith died, his influence on the contemporary art world has only seemed to expand.

Smith’s practice defied categorization; as a painter, he was as comfortable working in the style of Rothko’s color field paintings as he was taking inspiration from the candy-colored advertisements in New York City. His signature work, Shuttle, was created for his 1975 retrospective at the Tate. Now, the work will be the centerpiece of a new show, “Chance Encounters III” on display at LOEWE Miami Design District, the South Florida outpost for the Spanish fashion and design brand.

Born in 1931 in Hertfordshire, Smith studied at the Royal College of Art in London alongside the Pop artist Peter Blake, before earning a fellowship which allowed him to travel to New York. The city’s slick advertisements and rich colors would have a lasting impression on Smith’s oeuvre, and his short time in America attracted attention from art-world heavyweights like curator Henry Geldzahler and gallerist Richard Bellamy.

At only 37, the artist was celebrated with a retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Three years later, in 1970, Smith represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, followed shortly after by a 1975 Tate retrospective, which cemented his place as an enduring figure on the international contemporary art scene.


Richard Smith's Shuttle. Courtesy of the artist and the Loewe Foundation.

Richard Smith’s Shuttle. Photo courtesy of the artist and the Loewe Foundation.

In a new video to celebrate the opening of “Chance Encounters III,” writer and curator Paul Laster spoke to the late artist’s son, Harry Smith, about the origin of Shuttle as one of the artist’s renown “kite” paintings. The massive installation consists of seven panels of indigo blue canvas, affixed onto metal rods and loosely strung up from the ceiling, like a canopy draped through the space. Laster notes that “he takes it into three dimensions…in these big commercial spaces, its almost as if the canvas is rolled off into these enormous sections, that then have a structure that holds it and keeps it in place.”

Smith completed commissions for site-specific installations that echoed the construction of Shuttle, harnessing the playful spirit of a kite while challenging the conventional notion of a painting.

“We flew kites all the time,” the younger Smith told Laster, “spending our summers in Cape Cod—Betsy, his wife, was an avid kite flier; she could fly seven or eight kites at a time, on one string.” That inspiration surely played into the formal composition of Shuttle, which uses aluminum rods and strings, unvarnished and attached to the raw-edged canvas pieces. Smith’s son talks about his father’s appreciation for an object’s underlying construction, and his knack for finding beauty in utility—a passion that is shared by Loewe’s creative director Jonathan Anderson.

Richard Smith’s Shuttle (detail). Photo courtesy of the artist and the Loewe Foundation.

In addition to Smith’s work, the third iteration of “Chance Encounters” will also showcase works by photographer Lionel Wendt and ceramicist Sara Flynn at the Spanish label’s store, where Anderson has seamlessly integrated contemporary art with his designs. (You can see artnet News’s look at both Flynn’s and Wendt’s work here and here.)  In 2015, the brand opened its first North American outpost in Miami’s Design District. Under Anderson’s direction, the label imported an 18th-century stone granary structure to anchor its retail space, using Art Basel as an opportunity to display complementary artworks—and host three successful editions of “Chance Encounters” in the process.

“Chance Encounters III” runs December 5–February 4 at Loewe, Miami Design District, 110 NE 39th Street, Suite #102.

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