(b.1982 South Africa)

Lionel Smit is best known for his contemporary portraiture executed through monumental canvases and sculptures. Perhaps more than anything else, Smit’s work is defined by a profound and ongoing dialogue between sculpture and painting.

A multidisciplinary artist, each of Smit’s works offer us an entry point into the variety and richness that lies beneath every face we encounter in life, whether applied in bronze or in paint. While retaining their austerity and meditative aesthetic, Smit's figures remain highly charged with the emotive and gestural energy of his creative process.

Smit’s paintings begin with abstract lines and swathes of colour that establish a foundation for the subsequently overlaid image of a face or bust – in most cases of anonymous models from the Cape Malay community. For Smit, the Cape Malay woman epitomises hybrid identity within a South African context and reflects the fragmentation of identity within our increasingly globalised world.

Smit’s bronzes are created using the lost wax casting method. Patinas commonly available to artists working in bronze include natural browns, blacks and greens. However, given the importance of colour to Smit, he uses alternative methods that result in a unique fusion of intensely saturated patinas. Brilliant streaks of blues and greens enrich the grooves of an ear, while the natural shadow of an eyelid is intensified by the deepening of rich black patinas. Smit’s ability to manipulate the patination process, coupled with his focused enthusiasm for surface gradations, has allowed him to consistently push boundaries.

Based in Strand, Cape Town, Smit’s process as an artist today remains adaptive, inventive, and physically engaging and he has achieved success internationally, from Hong Kong to London and New York.

Smit's painting has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London where it received the Viewer’s Choice Award, as well as selected as the 'face' of the BP Portrait Award 2013. In 2016, Smit, in collaboration with Cynthia-Reeves Gallery, installed a public art installation, ‘Morphous’, in New York’s Union Square. He received a Ministerial Award from the South African Department of Culture for Visual Art.

Over the past 10 years Smit has established a substantial international following with collectors ranging from the Standard Chartered Bank to Laurence Graff Art Collection at Delaire Graff Wine Estate.


Bronze, Steel, Stone & Bone, Everard Read, London, UK

Destructure, Everard Read Gallery, London, UK

Obscura, The Musuem of Contemporary Art, Florida, USA

Emerge, .M Contemporary, Sydney, Australia
State, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Premise, CIRCA Cape Town, South Africa
Faces of Identity, Everard Read Gallery, London, UK

Art Miami, Cynthia-Reeves Gallery, Miami, USA
Faces of Identity, Didrichsen Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland
JHB Art Fair, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Echo, Cynthia-Reeves Gallery, Massachusetts, USA
Art 16, Rook & Raven, London, UK
Obscura 2, Rook & Raven, London, UK
Trace,  Rook & Raven, New York, USA
Cape Town Art Fair, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

Art Miami, Cynthia-Reeves Gallery, Miami, USA
Recurrence, .M Contemporary, Sydney, AUstralia
JHB Art Fair, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Close/Perspective, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
Origins, Rook & Raven, London, UK
Obscura, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
Art Central Art Fair, Rook & Raven Gallery, Hong Kong
Accumulation of Disorder, installation, Independent Art Projects, MASS MoCA Campus, USA

Art Taipei, The Cat Street Gallery, Taiwan
Contronym, The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong
Morphous, Circa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Cumulus, Rook & Raven, London, UK
Fugitive Identity, Cynthia Reeves, USA

Art Miami Fair, Cynthia Reeves, Miami, USA
IS Sculpture, IsArt, Tokara, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Strata Art Fair, Saatchi Gallery, Rook & Raven, London, UK
Fragmented, Rook & Raven, London, UK
Accumulation, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa
BP Portrait Award Exhibition, Viewer’s Choice Award , National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
Wonder Works Exhibition, The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong
Metal Work Public sculpture, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Compendium, 34FineArt, Cape Town, South Africa
Accumulation of Disorder, University of Stellenbosch Gallery, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Strata, Rook and Raven, London, UK
Robert Bowman Gallery, India Art Fair, India
JHB Art Fair, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Surface, Artspace, Johannesburg, South Africa
34FineArt, ArtMonaco ‘11, Monaco

Out of the Office, Kunstmuseum Bochum, Germany
Cynthia Reeves Projects, Art Miami, USA
We are not Witches, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK
Submerge, 34FineArt, Cape Town

F.A.C.E.T., Charity Auction, Christie’s, London, UK
Relate, Grande Provence, Franschhoek, South Africa

Qualifications and Awards
Visitor's Choice Award, PB Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Ministerial Award from Department of Culture for Visual Art, Western Cape Government, South Africa

Merit Award, Vuleka, Sanlam Art Competition, Cape Town, South Africa

Achievement Award, Pro Arte School of Arts

First prize in the MTN Art Colours Awards of Gauteng, South Africa

Best painting student Pro Arte School of Arts