A Puzzle 4U - 2023: Bob & Roberta Smith

Bob and Roberta Smith Art in Mayfair Royal Academy of Arts

Flags Presented by Art in Mayfair in partnership with the Royal Academy of Art.

Installation Dates: 9 June – 12 July
Website: bobandrobertasmith.co.uk

Flag Location: New Bond Street, Old Bond Street, North and South Audley Street, Duke Street

World-renowned contemporary artist Bob and Roberta Smith RA – whose best-known work includes Make Art Not War – has been invited to create the unique Art in Mayfair flags for 2023. Entitled ‘A puzzle 4U’, these will hang above Bond Street, North Audley Street, South Audley Street, and Duke Street. Upon first look, the flag artworks present a jumble of letter forms arranged in different combinations, which leaves the public to try and decipher the meaning themselves. On the reverse side, walking back down the streets of Mayfair in the other direction, the slogan is revealed. The puzzle itself will be unveiled for the first time when the flag artworks go up throughout Mayfair on 12 June.

Bob and Roberta Smith RA says the inspiration behind the project is that it should be “a genuinely playful experience in amongst all of the hullabaloo of central London.” He goes on to say: “I have always been obsessed with letter forms and words and what slogans mean – what is it that people try to say when they come up with a slogan or a phrase? Do they really mean what they say? Language is such a beautiful thing, made up of these 26 shapes. Throughout my whole life, that notion has preoccupied me quite a bit.”

About Bob & Roberta Smith RA (b. 1963)

Bob and Roberta Smith is the pseudonym of the artist Patrick Brill. Born in London, he studied at the University of Reading from (1981-1985) and Goldsmiths College (1991).

He trained as a sign painter in New York and uses text as an art form, creating colourful slogans on banners and placards that challenge elitism and advocate the importance of creativity in politics and education.

His best known works are Make Art Not War (1997) and Letter to Michael Gove(2011), a letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education reprimanding him for the “destruction of Britain’s ability to draw, design and sing.”

His curatorial projects include Art U Need: An Outdoor Revolution, which transformed public spaces in the Thames Gateway (2005-2006), and Peace Camp at The Brick Lane Gallery (2006), an exploration of artists’ perceptions of peace. A regular speaker at conferences and symposia, he initiated the Arts’ Party Conference 2013, a forum for artists and organisations to debate the role of art and design in schools.

As well as hosting a radio show called Make Your Own Damn Music on Resonance FM, Bob and Roberta Smith is a writer and musician, often performing with the Ken Brasley Playboy band. In 2009, he was appointed as a Tate Trustee and he is currently Associate Professor at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University.

Text: Royal Academy of Arts

Website: bobandrobertasmith.co.uk

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