In April I went to Marrakech, primarily for a much needed break and a bit of sunshine, but also to see if we could find any of the paintings that Larry Smart did during the 15 years that he regularly visited the city. Many people commissioned him to paint their restored riads as he could so perfectly capture the sacred geometry that underpinned the design of the tiling and plasterwork. His understanding of the mechanics and principles of this geometry meant that he could paint an image that was faithful to the original design concept, preserving the symmetry and perspectives of the creators.
I had been to Marrakech a few times with Larry and knew that he sold some of his paintings through the art shop at the Mamounia Hotel, the venerable institution where Winston Churchill would holiday and paint in the lovely gardens. However, the hotel had been completely refurbished and there was no sign of the art shop that had previously been just inside the entrance. We had some tea and then took a stroll through the gardens and then, on our way out of the hotel, my wife Jo noticed a gift shop and some other fashion shops on an annex. We shopped around (yawn) and then I noticed an art shop, the Khalid Gallery, on the far side of the annex. On a hunch I asked the sales person if he’d heard of an artist called Larry Smart. He replied, ‘Yes, but I think he passed away some years ago.’ I asked if they had any of his paintings and he replied “You’ll have to ask Mr. Mohsin, who runs the main gallery in Dar Pasha.” We had already been to that gallery as Jasper Conran, the proprietor of Hotel Marrakech, where we were staying, bought most of his interior furnishings from the Khalid Gallery. The manager of the hotel had taken us there a few days earlier but I hadn’t made the connection. I telephoned Mohsin, who replied that he thought there might be a painting by Larry in their warehouse and asked me to call back later or the next day. I popped in later on our way to our hotel and he had recovered 2 paintings from the warehouse that were the embodiment of Larry’s style. They were probably the last, or among the last, paintings that Larry ever did. After a bit of haggling we agreed on a price and the paintings were shipped to us a few days later. They are perhaps the most beautiful of all Larry’s work, which is saying a lot!
by Craig Sams