UK-born Matt Smith is well known for his site-specific work in museums, galleries and historic houses. Using clay, textiles and their associated references, he explores how cultural organisations operate using techniques of institutional critique and artist intervention. He is interested in how history is a constantly selected and refined narrative that presents itself as a fixed and accurate account of the past and how, through taking objects and repurposing them in new situations, this can be brought to light. Of particular interest to him is how museums can be reframed into alternative perspectives.
""What museums collect, and what this tells us about what society deems important, is an ongoing fascination to me. Recent events have shown how important objects, and particularly sculpture, are in the national debate about who we are and how we got here. I have worked with the museums many times over the last decade and I love interpreting and curating works to help the widest possible audience feel welcomed and visible within the museums," – Smith says.
In 2015/2016, Matt was Artist in Residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2009 he received the ARC Award for Craft from Aspex Gallery and was awarded the inaugural Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize in 2014. At Collect 2018, he was awarded "Object of the Show" by Ekow Eshun. For Collect 2020, Cynthia Corbett and Matt Smith co-curated a site-specific installation featuring textiles and black parian works. The curation was extremely well-received, and Matt was awarded the inaugural Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Prize, which allowed the Crafts Council to purchase six artworks for the Council's collection. The V&A Museum's Design and Textiles department also acquired one of Matt's subversive embroideries. In June 2020 the Gallery’s long-standing partner Contemporary Art Society has acquired twelve ceramic and tapestry works by Matt Smith. This acquisition became a central focus for the displays at the Hove Museum. This exciting project was possible due to the Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund in partnership with Frieze London, which is a new initiative supporting artists and museums during the Covid-19 pandemic. 2021 and 2022 saw Matt Smith’s textile and ceramic artworks join the collection of National Museums Northern Ireland.
Matt regularly exhibits his work at public collections including Coming Out, Walker Art Gallery 2017, A Place at the Table, Pallant House, 2014; Subversive Design, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, 2013; DIY A Revolution in Handicrafts, Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburg, 2010.
Matt Smith started his career at the V&A before developing exhibitions at the Science Museum and the British Film Institute. After retraining as a ceramicist, his work has often taken the form of hybrid artist/curator. His large-scale solo shows have addressed themes including the legacy of colonisation in Losing Venus (Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford) and Flux: Parian Unpacked (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), LGBT visibility in Queering the Museum (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 2010) and Other Stories (Leeds University Art Collection, 2012). Matt co-directed and curated Unravelling the National Trust which saw over thirty artists working with contemporary craft (including himself) commissioned to respond to the histories of the National Trust properties Nymans House, Uppark House and The Vyne. Matt holds a practice-based PhD from the University of Brighton. The PhD explored the use of craft techniques in contemporary art by artists exploring identities. He is Professor of Ceramics and Glass at Konstfack University of the Arts, Stockholm and Honorary Fellow at the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies. His work is held in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum as well as numerous private international collections.