a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Head of Oculus


Last hours with David Smith
Anthony Caro Artist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

And when he died, you know, it was at Bennington in fact.

[Q] In a car crash?

Yeah. We went round... round the corner and he went into the ditch and... and it was an awful night.

[Q] Were you there?

Yeah. And we all went on... over to Albany and he was dead by the time... He died on the way... on the way to Albany in the ambulance.

[Q] Just take us... I didn't know you were there that night. What... just, what...? Tell me about, you know, your last hours with Smith.

No, well... well, David had said to me a week or two earlier, which was amazing – he told me he was lonely. He'd never really revealed himself, and he said: 'I'm alone', he said. ‘The girls don't talk to me on the telephone now; I ring them and they... and their mother stops them talking to me, or something', he said. He said, ‘And I'll be all alone when I die’. He said that. Awful. And he was playing around on a sort of... on a... on a motorbike thing that he had there at Ken's, and he went into some... some brambles or something first anyway. So maybe he was... I don't know. But, anyway, there was this show after dinner at the Carriage Barn at... at Bennington College and everybody piles into cars, and David came in his car, and there was a bit of steel in the back, and I don't know what happened. But he... he ended up in the ditch, and then Stephanie, Ken's wife, came and said... and we said, ‘Where... what's happened to David?’ She said, ‘I'll go and find...’ And if you were to see, and there were all these policemen there and police cars and things, and he'd gone off in... in the... in the ambulance and... and we all went to... we all went to... to the hospital in Albany – Helen and Bob, Helen, Bob Motherwell. Helen was terribly upset. And Ken and Stephanie and... and Jules and Andie, Jules's wife. Sheila had gone back to England. And he was dead; yeah, he died. He was dead in the... in the... I think in the ambulance.

[Q] Had he been drinking?

At dinner.

[Q] It's almost a parallel with Pollock, though?

No, it was quite different. I don't know about Pollock; I know the story because I know the book and I know, you know, what Clem told me and so on. But that... but... I don't think... he wasn't showing off. I think he was just... he was out of control. He had this sort of... he had this sort of Jeep type car and... and there was a piece of steel in the back; maybe that hit him, I don't know. I don't know what happened. It's only three miles, or five miles, between Ken's place and... and Bennington College, just in that thing, round the corner and... there you are. It was awful; it was awful. He was young; he was only fifty-nine or something. But I never became a friend of David and that... he was... he was a... he was an example to me. He was an example to me. God, he knew how to work. He'd work like a mad thing and he worked like every ounce of every day and he had this chap, Leon Pratt, who was his assistant, and who used to work with him. And I went up to... to Ken's... to... to David's place... I went to the funeral, and then... and then I think Clem and Ken and I stayed that night in David's place. And then there was this terrible sculpture. I said, ‘Who made that?’ No, that was sometime later. Stainless steel with everything in it, and... and Leon said, ‘I made that. That... that... I made that as my sort of homage to David, you know?’ It was awful. Made with David's materials and so on but it was dreadful. But... then there was a lot of steel, you know; there was a hell of a lot of steel and Ken... we said, ‘What are we going to do with the steel?’ And Ken said, ‘I'll buy the steel’. He said, ‘Do you want half of the steel? Do you want the steel, Tony? No, not half, much more than half'. And I said, ‘Sure’. And he sent it over here, and one day it came and they couldn't get it down the road; it was too big a... down... down the drive here. Thirty-seven tons of steel I got standing on the courtyard here and I tell you, my neighbours complained like hell. It was all David's steel.

[Q] How long did it take you to work through those thirty-seven tons of steel?

Oh, I don't know. A few years.

[Q] A decade?

No, a few years, yes. I even had some... some fragments.

British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013) came to prominence in 1963 after a show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Keen to create a more direct interaction with the viewer he placed pieces directly on the ground, rather than on plinths, a technique now widely used. He held many honorary degrees and was knighted in 1987.

Listeners: Tim Marlow

Tim Marlow is a writer, broadcaster and art historian. He founded "Tate: The Art Magazine" in 1993 and was presenter of Radio 4 arts programme "Kaleidoscope" from 1991 to 1998, for which he won a Sony Award. He has presented art programme's on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, including a documentary about JMW Turner, and written about art and culture for various British newspapers and magazines including "The Guardian", "The Times" and "Blueprint" He is Director of Exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London as well as a visiting lecturer at Winchester School of Art, an examiner on the Sculpture MA there and former creative director of Sculpture at Goodwood

Tags: Albany, Bennington College, Carriage Barn, David Smith, Bob Motherwell, Leon Pratt, Kenneth Noland

Duration: 5 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008