Bob and Roberta Smith

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Bob and Roberta Smith
Bob and Roberta Smith (34077811670).jpg
Brill in 2017
Patrick Brill

1963 (age 58–59)
EducationUniversity of Reading
Goldsmiths College
Spouse(s)Jessica Voorsanger

Patrick Brill OBE RA (born 1963), better known by his pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith, is a British contemporary artist, writer, author, musician, art education advocate, and keynote speaker. He is known for his "slogan" art, is an associate professor at the School of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University and has been curator of public art projects, like Art U Need. He was curator for the 2006 Peace Camp and created the 2013 Art Party to promote contemporary art and advocacy. His works have been exhibited and are in collections in Europe and the United States. Brill co-founded The Ken Ardley Playboys and hosts the Make Your Own Damn Music radio show.

His father is the landscape painter Frederick Brill who was head of the Chelsea School of Art from 1965 to 1979. His wife is the contemporary artist and lecturer, Jessica Voorsanger.

Life and work[edit]

Patrick Brill is the son of Frederick Brill (1920–1984), who was the Chelsea Art School head and his wife, the artist Deirdre Borlase.[1] He has a sister who is a psychiatric nurse, Roberta.[2] He graduated from the University of Reading[3][4] and received a scholarship during that time to The British School at Rome.[5] He then obtained his Master of Arts at Goldsmiths College, London.[3][6]

Brill is married to fellow artist and Goldsmiths College alumna, Jessica Voorsanger.[6]

Brill was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to the arts.[7]



Taxy (1999) by Bob and Roberta Smith, a work from the Cab Gallery

Brill is commonly known as Bob and Roberta Smith in his artistic career.[3] The pseudonym has been retained from the short lived period when he worked with his sister Roberta.[8]

Smith paints slogans in a brightly coloured lettering style on banners and discarded boards of wood and exhibits them in galleries of contemporary art across the world. The slogans are usually humorous musing on art, politics, popular culture, Britain and the world in general and they often support his activist campaigns, such as his 2002 amnesty on bad art at Pierogi Gallery, New York.[9]

Noted for sign painting, Smith also makes sculpture using cement, as in his 2005 Cement Soup Kitchen at Beaconsfield Gallery, London.[10] A sculpture he proposed was shortlisted for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London.[11]

[Smith] grew attracted to postures of amateurism and failure. His more recent work has suggested an interest in the utopian impulse of art as an agent for social change, although this often seems hedged with doubt or irony

— Morgan Falconer[12]

In March 2005 he was commissioned to act as curator on a series of five public art projects in the Thames Gateway housing estates of Essex. The projects were collectively named Art U Need and were documented in a diary-format book by Smith in 2007.[2][13] Writing of a "glittering Notting Hill Gate" event to introduce the project, Lynn Barber said of Smith: "It was a startlingly unsuitable subject for such a glossy audience, but he held them spellbound. I see him as a sort of Ian Dury of the art world, someone who keeps on trucking, doing his own thing, making absolutely no concessions to fashion or marketability, but generally giving pleasure to everyone who comes across him."[2]

A feature documentary about the work of Bob and Roberta Smith, Make Your Own Damn Art: the world of Bob and Roberta Smith, directed by John Rogers, premiered at the East End Film Festival in 2012.[14][15]

In 2013, he was on the UK Museum of the Year selection panel. He is on the Tate board as an artist member.[3]

In October 2021, Brill contributed to WWF's campaign, Art For Your World.

Speaker, writer and advocate[edit]

He has spoken as an advocate for art education and the arts and has been a keynote speaker at symposia and conferences.[3] A recent example of his gift for merging art and politics was illustrated in the 2006 exhibition, "Peace Camp." Smith took part in and curated the show held at The Brick Lane Gallery that explored artists perceptions on Peace. Gavin Turk, Wolfgang Tillmans, and more than 100 other artists were featured.[16] He created a project, the Art Party, in 2013 to make contemporary art more accessible, demonstrate its ability to influence meaningful conversation and political thought. It was launched at the Pierogi Gallery in New York and at the Hales Gallery. An Arts Council sponsored a two-day conference at Crescent Arts in North Yorkshire that year. It brought more than 2000 people who attended discussions of art education in schools and lectures, listened to music and attended performances.[3]

Brill writes for The Guardian.[3]


Brill is an associate professor at the School of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University, teaching bachelor and graduate students. He is also a course leader for the Master of Fine Arts program, researcher and co-lead with Oriana Fox of the Public Acts studio and tutors in fine art.[3]


Brill performs music, often with a group he co-founded, The Ken Ardley Playboys,[3] who had their first 45 released by Billy Childish on his label Hangman Records. Brill hosts The Bob & Roberta Smith Radio Show called Make Your Own Damn Music on Resonance FM.[3][17]

2015 election[edit]

Brill stood in the Surrey Heath constituency in the 2015 general election, under the pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith.[18] He won the fewest votes in the constituency, receiving 273 votes (0.5%) and losing his deposit.[19] The seat was won by incumbent MP Michael Gove.


  • 2002 – Bunch of Cowards, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh
  • 2002 – It's not easy being a famous Artist, Galerie Praz Delavallade, Paris
  • 2002 – The Art Amnesty, Deptford X, London
  • 2002 – The New York Art Amnesty, Pierogi 2000, New York
  • 2002 – Useless men and Stupid Women, Anthony Wilkinson Gallery, London
  • 2003 – The Mobile Reality Creator, Compton Verney
  • 2004 – Help Build The Ruins of Democracy, The Baltic
  • 2005/06 – Make Your Own Damn Art, Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston, UK
  • 2005/06 – Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (Dilemmas For Margate), Margate High Street, Turner Contemporary
  • 2005/06 – The Beautiful Poetry of Bob and Roberta Smith, Hales Gallery, London
  • 2007 – Peace Camp, The Brick Lane Gallery, London
  • 2008 – Fourth Plinth, The National Gallery, London[11]
  • 2008 – Tate Christmas Tree, Tate Britain, London
  • 2009 – Altermodern, Tate Triennial exhibition, Tate Britain, London
  • 2014/15 – Art Amnesty, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY [20]
  • 2017 – Folkestone Is An Art School, Folkestone Triennial, Kent
  • 2018 – La Panacée-MoCo, Montpellier


Published works[edit]

  • Art u need: my part in the public art revolution. Black Dog Publishing. 2007. ISBN 978-1-906155-16-2.
  • Hearing Voices, Seeing Things: A Serpentine Gallery Project : Seven Artists' Projects Exploring Mental Health. Serpentine Gallery. 2006. ISBN 978-1-905190-09-6.
  • Hijack Reality: Deptford X: A 'How To' Guide to Organize a Really Top Notch Art Festival. C. T. Editions. 1 July 2009. ISBN 978-0-9547071-2-5.
  • Make Your Own Damn Art. London: Black Dog Publishing. 2004.
  • We Spy USA. Purgatory Pie Press. 1998.


  1. ^ Bob and Roberta Smith (30 July 2018). "Deirdre Borlase obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Lynn Barber (26 April 2008). "Some day his plinth will come". The Observer. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Patrick Brill (aka Bob and Roberta Smith)". London Metropolitan University & Cass Department of Art. Archived from the original on 10 March 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Frederick Brill". Art UK. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Smith, Bob and Roberta". Roe and Moore. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b Jessica Lack (26 August 2009). "Artist of the Week 55: Jessica Voorsanger". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  7. ^ "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N10.
  8. ^ Matilda Battersby (24 February 2012). "Inside the artist's studio: Bob & Roberta Smith. One man, two names, a lot of words". The Independent Culture. Independent. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Bob and Roberta Smith". Pierogi Gallery. Archived from the original on 16 April 2006.
  10. ^ "Chronic Epoch". Beaconsfield Gallery. Archived from the original on 20 July 2006.
  11. ^ a b "Fourth Plinth". The National Gallery. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  12. ^ Morgan Falconer (2 October 2006). "Bob and Roberta Smith". Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press.
  13. ^ Smith, Bob and Roberta. 2007. Art U Need: My Part in the Public Art Revolution London: Black Dog Publishing
  14. ^ "Make Your Own Damn Art: The World of Bob and Roberta Smith". IMDb. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Make Your Own Damn Art: The World of Bob and Roberta Smith". Center for Artistic Activism. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Culture Now: Bob & Roberta Smith". Institute of Contemporary Arts. 11 January 2013. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Make Your Own Damn Music on Your Damn Radio". Resonance104.4fm. 7 November 2008. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  18. ^ Clark, Nick (3 December 2014). "Artist will run against Gove at the election on culture platform". The Independent. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  19. ^ "2015 general election results - Surrey Heath". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  20. ^ "Bob and Roberta Smith: Art Amnesty". MoMA PS1.

External links[edit]