The smiley symbol and its creator, Harvey Ball, are central figures of Smile High Club, a curated exhibition by British DJ Fat Boy Slim (Norman Cook) that opens today at the Underdogs gallery in Lisbon.
‘Smile High Club’ represents a debut of Fat Boy Slim in the curatorship of exhibitions. “It’s so exciting for me to be doing something out of my music career and exploring the other love in my life [the Art],” he said.
The show brings together works from 12 artists and collectives, some created purposely for the occasion, and works from the collection of smileys that Norman Cook started 30 years ago.
“The idea is to promote the work of Harvey Ball and the name Harvey Ball and I collaborate with artists and challenge them to do something around the ‘ smiley ‘or the Harvey Ball, “he explained.
Of the 12 artists and collectives – Andrew Harz, Bob Jaroc, Carrie Reichardt, Chemical X, Pedrita Studio, James Joyce, Jimmy Cauty, Joseph Ford, Mark Vessey, Ron English, RYCA and The London Police – some are friends of Norman Cook, others know them because they use the smiley in their work, and others, like the Portuguese Studio Pedrita, is “just a fan”.
Fat Boy Slim asked them to “go further” to others, such as the British collective The London Police and the Pedrita Studios, who suggested that they take a picture of Harvey Ball. In the case of the Portuguese, because he thought “making a smiley with the tiles would not work and knew that they make very good portraits”.
The DJ’s ability to curate an art exhibition for the first time came through “friendship and collaboration with [the Portuguese artist] Vhils” and is “a kind of fusion, a cross between a musical career and a love of art.”
“Vhils only asked me if I wanted to do an exhibition and I thought about what I could put together. Smiley is something very important to me in my life, and through music and art it has been a constant in my life, said.
In the gallery, there will be a “small part” of the collection that Norman Cook started in 1989, at a time when “acid house” style of music passed and everyone gave what they had with smileys.
Although the collection only started 30 years ago, the first item was purchased in 1977: “I think my copy of the ‘Psycho Killer’, a 12-inch Talking Heads single, is probably my first subject collection”.
Today, in addition to being promised a small set at the inauguration of the exhibition, Fat Boy Slim has a performance marked on the rooftop of the Cruise Terminal in Lisbon. “Working as a DJ at the opening of my show is a dream come true,” said Norman Cook, reinforcing the idea of how “it’s good to be able to put everything together [Music and Art] and can do both.”
‘Smile High Club’, free admission, can be visited until July 27.
Underdogs is a cultural platform, founded by the French Pauline Foessel and the Portuguese Alexandre Farto (Vhils), which is divided among public art, with paintings on the walls of the city, exhibitions inside doors (at 56 Fernando Palha Street) and the production of original artistic editions.
The platform, which began in 2015 to organize guided tours of Urban Art in Lisbon, also had a store, in the Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa, which hosted exhibitions and which from now on works in the space of the gallery.
Today, in addition to ‘Smile High Club’, it is also inaugurated in Underdogs ‘Ignorantism’, an individual exhibition by Frenchman Fuzi, who in this show, according to the presentation text, “returns to the spontaneity of graffiti, evoking the marks inscribed on walls of prisons, scrawled in toilet cubicles, or scratched in windows of trains. “