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Conehead man (Large) (2018)

© Matt Smith. Courtesy The Cynthia Corbett Gallery. Photo credit: Matt Smith



Craft, Ceramic


Biscuit porcelain, Black Parian


22 x 7 x 5 cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through the Rapid Response Fund, 2020

Ownership history:

Purchased from Whistleblower Gallery, Hove by the Contemporary Art Society through the Rapid Response Fund, 2020; presented to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove, 2020
Matt Smith has gained an increasing reputation as a ceramicist and textile artist. Much of his work explores the representation of queer and marginalised histories. His clay figures and tapestries describe the ways in which institutions function and reproduce fixed narratives. Artist intervention and recycled materials are employed within his practice to critique and reveal these power structures. As Matt Smith has said, ‘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.’

This body of work acquired through the Rapid Response Fund for Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Brighton & Hove contains a plethora of Smith’s practice including a number of works from the series ‘Wunderkammer’. Wunderkammern are cabinets of curiosities that were popular in the Victorian era and before. Specialists and amateurs vied to find unusual specimens for their collection, leading to ‘faked’ objects appearing, including mermaids and unicorn horns. Smith combines these contrasting elements to make new fantastic relics, displaying the opulence of Victorian Britain whilst simultaneously inserting an element of unease and difference.

Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Brighton & Hove have established a relationship with the artist over the last decade. This acquisition complements the existing works in the collection and enables the museum to display how Smith’s work has evolved over time, since the museum already owns an earlier work by the artist. The museum continues to develop its craft audience, building on the success of its recent Cultural Icons exhibition of contemporary ceramicists. The benefits of craft and creativity for wellbeing are well known and resonate particularly with the current uncertain times. Matt Smith’s objects and tapestries will form a key inspiration for activity sessions with groups especially those with varied critical social needs.

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