Anj Smith. A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook

17.12.2021 – 1.05.2022

Museo Novecento in collaboration with Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce Anj Smith. A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook, a major solo show in an Italian museum by the British painter Anj Smith (Kent, United Kingdom, 1978).

The exhibition, curated by Sergio Risaliti and organized by MUS.E, hosts a selection of 12 works in which the artist’s interior landscapes, populated by skillfully painted faces, animals and other natural elements, interact with the extraordinary collection of ancient art of the Museo Stefano Bardini.

Following the monographic exhibitions dedicated to international artists, the rooms of the museum housing the collection of the Florentine antiquarian and connoisseur Stefano Bardini return to host a contemporary artist, Anj Smith, whose work seduces and hypnotizes the viewer.
Smith’s paintings, made with an expertise equal to that of a medieval miniaturist or a Flemish-Renaissance still life artist, are nothing short of old master traditions. Void of nostalgia or narcissism, Smith’s technique does not aim to deliberately reproduce reality. The meticulous magnificence of her representations displaces the observer, by bringing elements of disquiet. The portraits and still lifes contain something disturbing, almost seeming to comment on over-consumption and the alarming nature of artifice. The refinement and elegance with which the representations are constructed seem to share the sense of fragility and transience of nature. Smith’s work is an extraordinary, topical response to the most classic vanitas, a reflection on the promiscuous but fascinating relationship between beauty and death, between fullness and emptiness, between pleasure and dissatisfaction. Her landscapes are inner fantasies from which hybrid and dreamlike creatures emerge. Smith’s figures, their faces and bodies, are almost themselves being transformed into landscapes. History of art is combined with fashion, scientific illustration with Gothic imaginary, and the iconic with the rhetoric of medieval and Renaissance symbolism and visual languages. The observer is invited to be patient and to look with curiosity to enter these wonderful Wunderkammers, to make a journey that is not only optical but also mental between iconographic repertoires and popular culture.

Like any great masterpiece of the past, Smith’s art has a radically counter-cultural approach. Firstly, in a current climate in which visual information is constantly disseminated for superficial and hasty consumption, the urge to slow down, reason and think is conceived by the artist as an antidote to soothe our troubled present. Secondly, “the pause required to fully appreciate these works allows us to obtain much more than this much-needed respite from the background noise of our complex lives”, says the artist. Smith’s practice promotes and cultivates critical thinking that transcends aesthetic pleasure, and which has indisputable value. Therefore, it finds its rightful place in the city of Florence, a place where this exploration and re-evaluation of historical contexts is nothing new. Florence embodies a continuous re-evaluation and reworking of stories, a process of understanding that has ensured the continuation of its canon. As Smith states, “every time I am in Florence, I perceive its irresistible and provocative magic and I feel inspired again to open new frontiers”.

Museo Stefano Bardini
Via dei Renai, 37 (Ponte alle Grazie) – Firenze
ticket office 055 2342427

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday – Saturday – Sunday | 11:00 – 17:00
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday | closed

Last admission: one hour before the museum closing time.

full ticket € 7,00
reduced ticket € 5,50

Admission is limited and can be booked online at the ticket office, or by writing to or calling
at 055 2768224.

Booking is strongly recommended in order to avoid not finding a place immediately.

Ph credits: Anj Smith, Names of the Hare (detail), 2017-18, Oil on linen, 65.5 x 50 cm / 25 3/4 x 19 5/8 inches. Copyright Photography©2018 Alex Delfanne, All Rights Reserved.