Bob and Roberta Smith

All Schools Should be Art Schools

2016

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Not on display

Artist
Bob and Roberta Smith born 1963
Medium
Household paint on wood
Dimensions
Overall display dimensions variable
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented 2016
Reference
T14774

Summary

All Schools Should Be Art Schools 2016 consists of twenty-eight placard signs, each of which is made of a square sheet of wood pinned to a wooden stake. Each sign is painted with a different capital letter on a blue background to fill the square. The letters have been variously painted in purple, green, cream and red and all are drawn in an angular style save for one ‘S’, the final letter of the work, which is curvilinear. The letter forms are outlined in yellow, cream or white and emphasised by drop shadows. Together they spell out the slogan and title of the work, ‘All Schools Should Be Art Schools’. The back of each board is unpainted bears a letter (corresponding to the letter painted on the front) and a number which indicates the order in which the panels should be installed.

In 2013 Smith founded the Art Party in order to channel contemporary art’s accessibility as a way of influencing meaningful conversation and political thought; he stated that, ‘The Art Party seeks to better advocate the arts to Government. The Art Party is NOT a formal political party, but is a loose grouping of artists and organisations who are deeply concerned about the Government diminishing the role of all the arts and design in schools.’ (Quoted at http://bobandrobertasmith.co.uk/who-are-bob-and-roberta-smith/, accessed August 2016). The party was launched at the Pierogi Gallery in New York and at the Hales Gallery in London. Later that year, an Arts Council-sponsored two-day conference was held at Crescent Arts in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. This attracted more than 2000 people who attended debates focused on the place of art education in schools, as well as lectures and other performances. It was in this context that the slogan ‘All Schools Should Be Art Schools’ first appeared as a single placard bearing the complete slogan. The artist has explained that this, as well as other placards were produced to embody the ‘physical manifestation of political metaphors’ (conversation with Tate curator Andrew Wilson, 26 July 2016). They were paraded in a march along the seafront in Scarborough before then being taken to the top of a ‘mountain’ at the venue that formed the site of the Art Party Conference. More pointedly, the conference, placards and especially the slogan ‘All Schools Should Be Art Schools’ had the purpose of satirising the policies of the then Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove and the disappearance of art from the National Curriculum for schools.

Smith’s focus on the policies of Gove emerged first in an open letter to Gove dated 25 July 2011, which formed the basis of a painting in 2012. In 2015 this was produced as a print as part of a fundraising effort to support Smith’s political campaign in Surrey Heath, Surrey, where he stood as an independent candidate against Michael Gove, the Conservative Party representative for the area, in the General Election on 7 May 2015. In the event, Gove was re-elected by a large majority. If Letter to Michael Gove 2012 and 2015 (Tate P81295) formed the manifesto behind the Art Party, the slogan ‘All Schools Should Be Art Schools’ was its rallying cry, appearing in a number of formats from paintings to postcards and button badges. One defining part of Smith’s campaign against Gove occurred when his campaign manager, the gallerist Fedja Klikovac, succeeded in getting Gove photographed holding a painting bearing the slogan.

School children from across Britain were the first visitors to the New Tate Modern, London in 2016, and All Schools Should Be Art Schools 2016 was carried into the building by its first visitors and proudly displayed as a statement of belief in the importance of art for learning in the daily life of everyone. Smith has suggested that the work could be displayed statically as a three-line statement on a wall, but in such a way that the possibility that the placards could be taken from the wall and paraded is implicitly clear. The work can also be displayed as a stand-alone wall work, alongside film documentation of the initial performance, or as a performance or parade.

Bob and Roberta Smith is the creation of artist Patrick Brill, who began to use pseudonyms in the late 1980s as a reaction to a dependency on the idea of celebrity within the art world. He has since developed a body of work that includes performance, video, painting and installations frequently encouraging – and often dependant on – audience participation.

Further reading
Bob and Roberta Smith, I Should be in Charge, London 2011.

Andrew Wilson
August 2016

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