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Bob and Roberta’s Excellent Protest Adventure

Bob and Roberta's Excellent Protest Adventure © BBC



Bob and Roberta Smith, an artist known for eye-catching placards with slogans like 'Make Art Not War', has for years waged his own eccentric political campaigns. In recent years, he'd begun to lose faith in protest but suddenly it's all the rage. From the Brexit vote to Black Lives Matter it seems the world is reclaiming its right to protest. In this film, Bob sets out to discover what's getting everyone so angry in a wry, opinionated and passionate investigation into our age of activism.

From dramatic scenes at the Republican National Convention just days after the killing of three police officers, to taking tea with pensioners fighting fracking in Yorkshire, Bob travels among this international protest movement, asking whether occupations, direct action and endless marches ever actually achieve anything. Or whether the social media revolution is transforming modern protest and the way our democracy works.

Along the way, Bob meets an eclectic mix of experts to help him make sense of it all, among them Noam Chomsky and British philosopher Roger Scruton. He talks protest songs with Billy Bragg, seeks sage advice from the latest celebrity protestor, anti-fracking activist Bez, and gets involved in some grass roots activism, trying to help the village of Newnham save their pub.

Art is Your Human Right – William Morris Gallery

Art is Your Human Right

The artistic campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith

16 October 2015 to 31 January 2016
  • Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm; free

Bob and Roberta Smith is the pseudonym of Patrick Brill, leading British contemporary artist and founder of the Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art. Enraged by the Government’s downgrading of art in schools, the artist decided to fight back. In this exhibition we follow his campaigns; from his furious painting, Letter to Michael Gove, to the launch of the Art Party and his attempt to be elected to parliament in 2015. Combining film, placards, sculpture, banners and even his slogan-covered campaigning van, this exhibition makes the case for creativity. All schools should be art schools. Music makes children powerful. The show includes a new film Art is Your Human Right: why can’t politics be more fun? and presents the artist’s hopes and fears for the future.This autumn see more of Bob and Roberta Smith’s work about the history of art education at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Created in response to the YSP’s National Arts Education Archive, Art For All opens 5 September 2015.
For Bob and Roberta Smith media enquiries please contact Chloe Nahum at Rees and Company: / 0203 137 8776 / 07742 239 178.

Art for All ~ Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Art Makes Children Powerful
Art Makes Children Powerful

Yorkshire Sculpture Park
5th September 2015 ~ 3rd January 2016

Bob and Roberta Smith’s installation Art for All has been developed in response to the holdings of the National Arts Education Archive (NAEA) at YSP, which documents over 100 years of art education. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the archive, Art For All extends the artist’s provocative advocacy for the role of art in lives and education and invites ideas toward an art curriculum for the digital 21st century.

Why I’m standing against Michael Gove

art-party-battle-busThe remarks made by Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, last month about “the arts holding kids back” seemed far more kneejerk than anything her predecessor Michael Gove said on creative education. But it was Gove who paved the way to erode confidence in the arts, and he remains the inspiration for my effort to better advocate the arts to government. This is why I intend to stand as an independent candidate in Surrey Heath, the constituency for which Gove is currently a member of parliament, in next year’s general election.

Since announcing my intention, I have received a surprising amount of support, although some people have mentioned that the economy, the NHS, housing and immigration might figure ahead of the arts in voters’ thinking. But art is central to how we live.

Even in terms of money, the arts return £4 to the economy for every £1 of public investment. The government’s own website states that the creative industries contribute £71.4bn to the economy or £8m an hour. With regards to the NHS, there has been extensive research into the mental wellbeing gained from engagement from the arts. Good housing is all about design – everything from your car to your carpet has been designed by human beings armed with nothing more than blank sheets of paper and pencils. The arts are about starting a conversation. Whereas government restrictions on immigration slow down and stifle touring productions, migration contributes to our culture and makes the arts stronger. It is also true that in a time of difficulty, culture can bring hope.

I could go on listing the ways in which creativity infiltrates and colours our lives and I intend to spend the first half of next year doing just that. I am not going to be endlessly negative about Mr Gove. I understand that he cares passionately about providing better education to more pupils, but I am standing against him because I believe he’s got a few things wrong.

Gove has confused subjects with standards. You can teach any subject to a high standard and although I agree with him about the importance of mathematics, beyond that I believe children should be free to choose for themselves. At present, pupils selecting their GCSEs have to deal with a complex Chinese puzzle of competing subjects, where arts are discriminated against. It’s almost impossible for kids to study art and music together, let alone dance or drama as well. This is worrying for British culture and Britain’s long-term reputation for being a great place to make, teach and experience the arts.

In my manifesto I will argue that:
• No school should be allowed to offer a curriculum without art, music, drama, dance and design at GCSE and A-level.
• Ofsted must include arts subjects as part of its assessment of schools. No school can possibly be considered “outstanding” unless it offers art, music, drama, dance and design.
• All children must study at least one arts subject at GCSE.
• Postgraduate training for art teachers should be enriched, not eroded.
• All primary-level teachers must be trained in art, craft and music.
• “Artist educators” should be supported – that is, professional artists who teach while also developing their own art practice.

I would like to establish an artistic community in Surrey Heath based on the principles of Black Mountain college in upstate New York. The latter, an experimental school which operated from 1933-57, was a centre for innovation which encouraged artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns to reinvent American modernism, a kind of American Bauhaus which led to a renaissance in design.

As part of the Surrey Heath artists community, we will provide resident programmes, talks, concerts and exhibitions, as well as establishing the Gove centre for creative writing. It’s well known that Gove is passionate about poetry and he is undoubtedly clever with words (especially when constructing arguments), so I would use the inspiration of the (ex) MP to develop this valuable resource.

If you would like to help AND you live in the Surrey Heath area please contact Bob.

This article was originally published in the Guardian

Bob and Roberta Smith will run against Michael Gove at the election on culture platform

The arts proved a thorn in Michael Gove’s side throughout his four-year tenure as Education Secretary. Now, one acclaimed artist is taking protests a step further by running against him in the next general election.

Bob and Roberta Smith, the pseudonym of Patrick Brill who specialises in painted placards, is to run against Mr Gove in his Surrey Heath constituency.

Although Mr Gove left his post as Education Secretary, following a Cabinet reshuffle in July, to become the Tory’s chief whip, Brill said he is running against him as the “architect” of the policies that have marginalised arts in schools.

“He has become a fulcrum to say the arts are really important in this country,” he said. “It’s a chance to say a lot of positive things about the arts rather than just bashing politicians.”

One of the artist’s best known works is Letter To Michael Gove, a huge placard carrying a diatribe of almost 1,000 words.

However, he said his decision to run was sparked by recent comments made by Mr Gove’s ministerial successor, Nicky Morgan, over how students could be held back by studying arts subjects. Mr Brill said: “What she said has got everyone fired up again. I thought: ‘I’ve got to stand’.”

Read the full article in the Independent

Throw Out Your Embarrassing Art at MoMA PS1

Sarah CasconeFriday, September 12, 2014

Bob and Robert Smith, <em>Artists Ruin It for Everyone</em> (2002). Photo: Bob and Roberta Smith, courtesy Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn.

Attention artists! Do you have some embarrassing student work collecting dust in your studio? Fear not, MoMA PS1 and Bob and Roberta Smith have you covered with “Art Amnesty,” a program and collaborative art piece that will launch October 2.

Bob and Roberta Smith, a pseudonym for British artist Patrick Brill, is inviting you to throw your art away in dumpsters in the museum courtyard, which will be emptied periodically throughout the project. For those who want the chance to show off their bad artwork before its destruction, museum staff will also be collecting work in the second floor galleries, and installing it for public view.

Depending on how ashamed you are of your creations, participants in the program have two options: they can sign a pledge  promising that “I never want to see this work of art again,” or they can take a more drastic step by signing the statement “I promise never to make art again,” which comes with an official badge designed by Bob and Roberta Smith that proclaims to the world: “I am no longer an artist.” For those signees, there is no turning back, although they will be invited to make one last drawing for the exhibition from materials made available at the museum.

“Many successful artists have recently voiced embarrassment that their work commands high prices,” Bob and Roberta Smith notes in a press release. “Artists may also use the opportunity of the ‘Art Amnesty’ to expel certain works of art from the art market and demote them to objects unburdened by grand expectations and dashed dreams.”

While the project does let artists dispose of works of which they are now ashamed, it also provides the opportunity to offload unwanted art that was acquired as an ill-advised purchase or a misguided present. (The press release specifically seeks out “those who have been the victims of gifts of art.”)

Bob and Roberta Smith first offered this amnesty program back in 2002 at Brooklyn’s Pierogi Gallery, and will be contributing some of his own work.

Letter to the Unknown Soldier

Dear Unknown Soldier,

The other night my wife and I went to see ‘Oh What a lovely War’ at Stratford Theatre Royal. It was an extremely moving performance. In the spirit of your comrades who sang, ‘We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here’, I’d write to you to say, ‘I bet you wish you had never signed up!’ In a more intellectual frame of mind I would say,’the collective ego is a very bad thing.’ But thinking about what happened during WW1 and its impact on the 20th century, and my two grandfathers who fought, but unlike you, survived, I think your memorial is what unites human beings: ears, legs. arms, hair, loves, toes, hopes and foot ball on Xmas day, are huge wonderful and joyous and what divides human beings is small and mean.

Bob and Roberta Smith

Letter to an Unknown Soldier


Photo by Brian Morrison

This statement forms part of Bob and Roberta Smith’s new work for LIGHTS OUT and is taken from their LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER.  Bob and Roberta Smith think that the common goals humanity aims for; love, peace and well-being, outweigh the things that divide us. The famous football match on Christmas day 1914 between Germans and allied troops enjoying sport together is emblematic of this feeling.

Bob and Roberta Smith take over the East Lawn of the City Hall grounds in Belfast to create an illuminating installation of the statement, using letters designed and constructed together with local artists and community groups.  These groups, with diverse age ranges and backgrounds, respond to their understanding of the statement and to the commemoration of WW1.

Each letter of the statement accommodates a set of candles and at 10pm on Monday 4 August, Bob and Roberta Smith invite the city of Belfast to ignite the candles in a moment of shared reflection.

Bob and Roberta Smith is the name of a British contemporary artist, writer, author, musician, art education advocate and keynote speaker. Seeing art as an important element in democratic life, much of their art takes the form of painted signs which advocate the arts to Government.

Read Bob and Roberta Smith’s LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER 

Community groups: Age NI, ArtsEkta, Cara-Friend, Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum, Golden Thread Gallery, Lyric Theatre Summer School, The Action Ability, Wallace High School

Workshop facilitators: Jane Butler, Charlotte Bosanquet, Tonya McMullan

Production managers: Stephen Hackett, Kim McAleese

Letter to Nicky Morgan

Dear Nicky Morgan,

Welcome to the world of Education.  This Sunday we will be screening a sneak preview of 'Art Party' a feature film starring John Voce as Michael Grove at the Latitude Festival. Grove's character is based on your predecessor.  All people involved in Education are reeling from the last four years of Michael Gove's Education reforms.  Michael's main mistake was to confuse the different subjects; Mathematics, History, English, Art etc. with educational standards.  Michael thought certain subjects had innately high standards and some subjects were substandard. These illogical and prejudicial views lead Michael Gove to make a complete mess of the national curriculum.

He constructed a hugely complex system for valuing subjects that marginalized everything he thought was not worthwhile including, surprisingly, creativity in the arts and design.

Other people will tell you about problems with free schools, and academies. How Michael Gove, with one hand gave growing control over schools to local business's and religious groups which has lead to huge difficulties over accountability and on the other hand, tried to control schools through the curriculum.

But it is his diminishment of the Arts in schools that has alienated every single person I have met in my attempt to better advocate the arts to Government since 2010.  I welcome your appointment.  You have talked about your frustration with the Conservative's negative approach.  Well you have just replaced a man for who a negative approach has spelt his demise.  Go girl!  You should feel validated in the idea of showing children a future that has a positive message.

The arts in schools provide a beating heart of hope in schools.  Art is about design and drawing the future.  Creativity is future gazing.

Until this morning I was planning to run in Gove's Surrey Heath Constituency in the next election to flag up the issue of the place of creativity and design in our schools. I even bought a camper van from which to conduct my campaign.

Your constituency, Loughborough is further for me and my camper van to travel.

I hope you will listen to teachers, children and parents. I hope you understand that not all kids are the same.  That hugely intelligent kids at math’s and science should be encouraged to enjoy and contribute to the culture of our country and that gifted creative kids must not be told their subjects are not worth studying.

I hope you get the fact that British design depends on kids being visual and able to draw. I encourage you to visit the Nationwide Art Party at a venue near you on the 21st of August, GCSE results day and do everything in your power to reverse 14% decline in children choosing the arts in schools since 2010.  Please do ask children to choose the arts at school and be all that they can be.


Bob and Roberta Smith

Kunst als Grundbedürfnis: Bob & Roberta Smith

Bob at Von Bartha

Bob and Roberta Smith ist - entgegen der ersten Vermutung - ein Mann. Der britische Künstler, der politisch denkt, aber kein politischer Künstler sein will, im Interview über die Wichtigkeit der Kunst in einer intakten Demokratie und darüber, was seine Kunst bei den Menschen auslösen soll.

Roughly translated: Bob and Roberta Smith is one person. A British politically-minded artist who thinks about the importance of art in a democracy, and encourages people to make their own "damn art".

Grove dictates the National Curriculum for the Arts

Michael Grove (played by John Voce) dictates the National Curriculum for the Arts to his senior civil servant Hetty Nettleship (played by Julia Rayner), while serenaded by Tim Sidall.

Still from the Film ‘Art Party’ by Tim Newton and Bob and Roberta Smith.

Michael Grove dictates the National Curriculum for the Arts


Updating website

Welcome to the revamped Bob and Roberta Smith website.

I am delighted to announce that Bob and Roberta has been elected to be a Royal Academician.

On the 17th of January 2014, our show ‘Get Personal and Political’ will open at Galerie von Bartha in Basel.

In August, on GCSE Results Day, the Art Party Movie will be released, launching the Art Party in a nationwide event.

Bob and Roberta no longer works with Hales Gallery.

Good luck with your efforts to expel Michael Gove from office.

This is an old video featuring Tim Sidall, star of the Art Party movie.

The Art Party the Movie

The Art Party 2013 launched at the Art Fund on the 20th September. Lesley Butterworth of the NSEAD explains why she’ll be presenting the alternative National Curriculum in Scarborough on November 23rd. Is it a Party, or is it Art? Film by Tim Newton and Bob and Roberta Smith.

Following the successful Art Party Conference Tim Newton and Bob are making a film of the event to be launched in August 2014. Tim and Bob collaborated recently on Who is Community?

Bob and Roberta Smith’s Solo Exhibition



JUNE 4, 2013

Hales Gallery is pleased to announce Bob and Roberta Smith’s first solo exhibition in Ireland, organized as part of the 40th Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Art Makes Children Powerful will comprise of a core survey of recent important painting, sculpture and installation at The Butler Gallery, at Kilkenny Castle and the exhibition will extend into the medieval city of Kilkenny in an extraordinary way as the artist has devised a provocative suite of off-site projects in stimulating venues.
The Butler Gallery
The Castle, Kilkenny
10 August – 6 October 2013
10 am – 5:30 pm daily

For more information please click here.

Make Your Own Damn Art ~ watch online

makeyourowndamnart Make Your Own Damn Art: The World of Bob and Roberta Smith
Directed by John Rogers
Bob and Roberta Smith

Artist Bob & Roberta Smith, in reality one person called Patrick Brill who has become renowned for his humorous,opinionated, polemical art works. He occupies a unique position in the art world as an outsider who is a Trustee of the Tate Gallery, an artist whose work is found in The Guardian and major galleries but also in the small unheralded spaces, and often works in a shed in his garden in Leytonstone.

Click view online:  Make Your Own Damn Art: The World of Bob and Roberta Smith

Bob Smith’s Who is Community?

A fictional meeting and love affair on the Central line between the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, and German political theorist Hannah Arendt, is the basis for the short film and a series of images at Stratford Underground station.


invites you to celebrate the launch of The Stratford Cinema Kiosk a part of the Who is Community? project

Bob and Roberta Smith and Tim Newton

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Stratford Underground station from 6:30pm

Theatre Royal Stratford East from 7pm

Free but places limited, please RSVP.

020 7027 8694

Contact us if you have any access requirements.

The Stratford Cinema Kiosk is a new, specially-designed structure modelled on an original 1920s ticket booth. The kiosk will be showing Bob and Roberta Smith and Tim Newton’s film, Who is Community?, which was commissioned by Art on the Underground this year. A fictional meeting and love affair on the Central line between the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, and German political theorist Hannah Arendt, is the basis for the short film and a series of images at Stratford Underground station. Life-size cut-outs of characters from the film have appeared around the Stratford neighbourhood, advertising the coming of The Stratford Cinema Kiosk.

Please join us at Stratford Underground station to unveil the new artwork, before heading to the nearby Theatre Royal Stratford East for the Who is Community? Hannah Arendt Quiz Night,which will include a reading of the film script with live musical accompaniment by Tim Newton and a pub quiz designed by Bob and Roberta Smith. Musician Claire Woods will round out the evening with eclectic pop on the piano.

23 New works added to this site

'We need a new counter culture' by Bob and Roberta Smith 2012.
‘We need a new counter culture’ by Bob and Roberta Smith 2012. Enamel Paint on Board

23 new and reasonably priced signs by Bob and Roberta Smith have been added to this site. They are guaranteed genuine and are signed on their reverse. Painted with enamel paint on recycled boards, their dimensions vary from 6″ to 12″ (150 mm to 300 mm). They will be posted within the UK by First Class post.

Please contact Stephen Gavin if you have any questions about these works by using our contact form or by mail or telephone.