family art project

SECRET TO A GOOD LIFE, The Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts, London


4 September 2018 – 3 February 2019, free admission

This special project by Bob and Roberta Smith RA explores the story of women artists and the Royal Academy – through the lens of his own family history.

Bob and Roberta Smith RA’s mother, the artist Deirdre Borlase, regularly exhibited in the RA’s Summer Exhibition. She thought she was more likely to be selected if she submitted works without her first name, to avoid giving away her gender.

In this special project to mark the RA’s 250th anniversary, members of Borlase’s family explore her story, and some of the other – sometimes strained – relationships between women and the Royal Academy over its history. The display will include a selection of historic paintings by Deidre Borlase from the 1940-80s, as well as a portrait of her by her husband, Frederick Brill.

Three new sculptures include This is Deirdre Borlase ARCA, 2018, by Bob and Roberta Smith RA and sculptures of the Academy’s female founders, Mary Moser RA and Angelica Kauffman RA, created by Smith in collaboration with his wife, Jessica Voorsanger, and their daughter, Etta Voorsanger-Brill.

The sculpture of Angelica Kauffman, a collaboration with Jessica Voorsanger is covered in 15 portraits of women artists she is inspired by starting with Angelica Kauffman (as the head) to Mona Hatoum and Alice Neel amongst others.

The sculpture of Mary Moser is a collaboration with Etta Voorsanger-Brill and Bob and Roberta Smith. It is covered in Risograph printed fanzines which explores women in a patriarchal society and include Mary Moser’s work.

The accompanying book Bob and Roberta Smith: The Secret to a Good Life explores the role of women artists, the sexism of the art world and the benefits of drawing every day. Find out more.


Family Art Projects ~ Shanghai

The Shanghai Family Art Project consisted of a residency in Shanghai and Beijing in 2006. It was awarded by Artist Links, which was a subsidiary of the British and Arts Councils. Working with a migrant workers school in Shanghai, the exhibition and workshops at Island6 Gallery consisted of the outcomes of these collaborations and a series of short films.