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Anj Smith. A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook. Credits Serge Domingie. Courtesy Museo Novecento Firenze

text Francesca Lombardi

January 10, 2022

At the Bardini Museum the first Italian exhibition of Anj Smith

Until next May 1 a selection of 12 paintings of the British painter

Troubling small worlds dot the blue walls of Museo Bardini: these are the cultured, sophisticated works of Anj Smith, on display until 1 May 2022 in the gorgeous rooms that once belonged to the renowned Florentine collector. 

Anj Smith. A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook. Credits Serge Domingie. Courtesy Museo Novecento Firenze

As the exhibition’s curator Sergio Risaliti tells us, “These spaces have seen works by John Currin, Glenn Brown, Luca Pignatelli and Ali Banisadr, in dialogues that have helped to bring together historical times and genres, form and content without distinction, and splits between past and present. Now it’s the turn of Anj Smith, who continues in this critical and methodological approach. Smith is an international artist with a refined and sophisticated pictorial language that intertwines obscure psychology, recontextualised juxtaposition, fashion and nature in compositions which are bound to seduce and arouse curiosity, even in the smallest of the works, in which the material achieves Renaissance-like exquisiteness. 

Anj Smith’s paintings could be defined as small Wunderkammern, in which the whimsical, alchemical spirit of Mannerism seems to reemerge in an utterly contemporary guise, with the addition of the disconcerting truth concealed among the folds of reality and the most charismatic imagery”. 

Museo Bardini. Credits Serge Domingie. Courtesy Museo Novecento Firenze

The paintings are created with all the mastery of a medieval miniaturist or a Flemish-Renaissance still-life artist, and are on a par with the work of certain maestros of ancient times. 

Nevertheless, her artistry never displays nostalgia or narcissism: “My work is influenced by Persian miniaturism, by Bosch and Botticelli, by Dutch still lifes, and by the sets created at the Théátre du Châtelet in Paris for the Russian Ballet”, says the artist. But this is only the starting point, the means by which to experience and illustrate an authentic contemporary feeling.

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