A London Gallery Is Giving the Spotlight Exclusively to Artists Named ‘Smith,’ and It’s the Show You Didn’t Know You Needed

Everyone loves the Smiths, right?

Installation view of "The Smiths" at Marlborough London. Photo: Luke Walker. Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

What do Patti Smith, Sir Paul Smith, Bob and Roberta Smith, Emily Mae Smith, and Lucien Smith have in common? Not much—except for their last names, of course, which was enough for Marlborough gallery to put on a delightfully honest exhibition in London asking us to step into the creative worlds of artists who share one of the English world’s most common last names.

The playful summer show is the brainchild of artist Maurizio Cattelan, and includes an international, cross-generational crop of 30 artists who work in a variety of media and styles. Among them (alongside the ones already named) are David Smith, Tony Smith, Kiki Smith, and Meryl Smith.

The exhibition is a cheeky jab at the need for artists to stand out and distinguish themselves. “Growing up in a world where the persona of the artist has been made so very important—think of Picasso—I thought: ‘I’m never going to be successful because I have the most boring name in the world!'” Emily Mae Smith told the Guardian. “‘This is never going to work for me… being an artist named Smith is a terrible thing,’”

Artist and filmmaker John Smith told the newspaper he appreciated the show’s transparent concept.

“Let’s be plain and Smith about it,” he said. “There’s a directness to being called Smith, and there’s a directness to saying: ‘Hey, this is what the show is.’”

“I have included my middle name ever since I was little because it was the only way I could be differentiated,” Emily Mae Smith told the Guardian. “But when Marlborough galleries contacted me about the show, I started laughing because being called Smith has suddenly become the opposite of a terrible thing in a very funny, cute way.”

See works and installation views from “The Smiths,” on view at Marlborough Gallery until August 2, below.

Emily Mae Smith, Wheels of Fortune (2019). Courtesy of The Artist and Simone Subal Gallery

Cauleen Smith <i>Leave me for the Crows</i> (2016).

Cauleen Smith, Leave me for the Crows (2016). Courtesy of The Artist and Kate Werble Gallery.

John Smith, Om (1986). Courtesy of The Artist and Kate MacGarry, London.

Patti Smith, Page 1, November 1968 (1968).Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

Paul Smith, Work in Progress (2019). Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

Installation view of “The Smiths” at Marlborough London. Photo: Luke Walker. Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

Installation view of “The Smiths” at Marlborough London. Photo: Luke Walker.Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

Installation view of “The Smiths” at Marlborough London. Photo: Luke Walker.Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

Installation view of “The Smiths” at Marlborough London. Photo: Luke Walker.Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.


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