Bob and Roberta Smith

Letter to Michael Gove


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Not on display

Bob and Roberta Smith born 1963
Screenprint on paper
Image: 595 × 420 mm
Purchased 2016


Letter to Michael Gove 2015 is a screenprint on paper, the entire surface of which is covered in upper case text that extends to the edges of the sheet. The text is an open letter dated 25 July 2011 from the artist Bob and Roberta Smith to Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Education, denouncing Gove’s plans to introduce a new school performance indicator in the UK called the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc). The Ebacc, designed to complement the GCSE, privileges traditional academic subjects at the expense of art and design. For the artist this fails to recognise the importance of art in a broad and varied educational curriculum. In his letter the artist writes: ‘Take art out of schools and you shut the door on children’s development and emasculate British culture. Where are our future designers, architects, craftsmen/women, engineers, technicians, software designers and mathematicians going to come from if no one can draw?’.

The print is based on an earlier painting, also titled Letter to Michael Gove 2012. It was produced by Handel Street Projects, London, in an edition of fifty, of which this copy is the first. The edition was made as part of a fundraising effort to support Bob and Roberta Smith’s political campaign in Surrey Heath, where he stood as an independent candidate against Gove – the Conservative Party candidate for the constituency – in the General Election on 7 May 2015. In the event Gove was re-elected by a large majority.

Bob and Roberta Smith is the creation of artist Patrick Brill, who began to use pseudonyms in the 1980s as a strategy to de-personalise artistic practice. Best known for text paintings which address the viewer directly with politically engaged slogans (see, for example, Make Art Not War 1997, Tate T12561), Bob and Roberta Smith’s practice also includes performance, video and installations that frequently involve the participation of the audience.

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

Helen Delaney
March 2015

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