One of the Turbine Hall works, during the building of Tate Modern



The first comprehensive retrospective of works by UK artist Terry Smith who since 1978, has produced major projects for the Tate Modern, British Museum, all over the world.

Despite the size and breadth of these projects Smith’s work – often incidental site-specific pieces or cuttings directly into the wall plaster of buildings – is rarely seen.

One reason for this is that many of the works are largely undocumented performances, or temporary pieces in building sites where there is limited, if any, access. Also Smith concentrates regularly on projects abroad: Venuzuela, Palestine, Mexico, Albania, Brazil etc. Significantly Smith’s exhibitions are usually as part of a group exhibition, or a solo show focused on one work, so this is the first time he brings together a cross section of all his works spanning his entire career: video, audio, sculpture, installation, drawings and interventions in once place.

Winner of the Paul Hamlyn award, Smith had a communist upbringing and his work is at times renegade, with resonances of the London streets where he grew up in, his love of music, spontaneity and the challenges that come with experiment. Detectible also are the overtones of socialism in his Free Art School projects and certain more emotionally and ethically driven work. At Frieze this year Adam Curtis implored the artists of today to shock him with kindness, empathy and such like qualities. Perhaps he is one of many who still haven’t heard of Smith, the artist’s artist.

Smith’s artist statement reads: “I have written many statements, all of them seem OK at the time, but when I reread them months later, I can not help but get depressed. To spare myself this misery, all I can say is, make up your own mind, whatever you think is true, probably is.”

To hear my recent interview with Terry Smith click the picture below: a detail from My Shortcomings As An Artist, 2007 by Smith. The interview will be broadcast on Resonance 104.4FM Wednesday 16th November at 11am.


You can hear the tracks here on Bandcamp.