Review: Bob And Roberta Smith Gets Political At William Morris Gallery

Art Is Your Human Right, WIlliam Morris Gallery ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 28 months ago
Review: Bob And Roberta Smith Gets Political At William Morris Gallery Art Is Your Human Right, WIlliam Morris Gallery 4
Bob and Roberta Smith emerges from his campaign van which is parked outside the gallery. Photo: Paul Tucker

Many artists incorporate some politics into their art but Bob and Roberta Smith is one (yes he is just one man) of the few to actually do anything about it. Horrified by the government's plans to cut arts funding, he decided to stand against the then Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove in this year's general election.

Despite only amassing a couple of hundred votes, the artist raised awareness of these cuts, both in the constituency of Surrey Heath and nationwide. Following on from the campaign, what better place to present some of his political works than at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow — after all, Morris was a politically active artist.

The work in Art is Your Human Right is largely made up of placards consisting of campaign statements such as 'the economy of the arts is 71.4bn' and '0% business rate for not for profits'. Most British political art we see tends to be simply anti-capitalist, but Smith has dedicated some serious thought to his proposed policies so that they stand up to some rigour, even if some (or many) visitors will disagree with them.

Upstairs is a video of Bob and Roberta Smith's election campaign, along with a soapbox that visitors can take to, grabbing one of the available placards, and airing their views to anybody willing to listen.

With many cuts proposed for the arts this is a timely exhibition, the kind of well thought out political art we'd like to see more of.

Art is Your Human Right: The Artistic Campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith is on at William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park, Fores Road, Walthamstow, E17 4PP until 31 January 2016. Entrance is free to the exhibition and the permanent displays, and the gallery is open 10am-5pm Wednesday to Sunday.

For more art in London see our top picks for autumn, October and our most talked about September exhibitions.

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We decide to make a stand in support of immigration. Photo: Anna McNay
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The placards visitors can choose from before standing on the soapbox. Courtesy Bob and Roberta Smith, Photo: Nicola Tree
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The title of the exhibition comes from this campaign poster. Courtesy Bob and Roberta Smith
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Campaign posters and an installation in the downstairs gallery. Courtesy Bob and Roberta Smith, Photo: Nicola Tree
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A challenge to the cutting of arts at schools. Courtesy Bob and Roberta Smith

Last Updated 20 October 2015

Greg Tingey

He's damned lucky the William Morris Gallery is still open.
A few years back the fragrant cllr Loakes (of LBWF) tried to close down virtually all museums & art in the borough. It was even labelled: "The Loakes tour of destruction"
After massive public protest Loakes retreated, & both the gallery & the Vestry House museum are still open.
Now, Loakes is trying to destroy all cohesion in the borough, by Balkanising it, using dubious methods, involving what certainly appears to be both voter fraud, gross misrepresentation & the mis-use of allocated (GLA) public funds for a so-called "mini-holland" set of schemes that, actually, do nothing at all for cycling.