Not for Rental

Designers Timba Smits and ‘Flash’ Gordon Shaw have teamed up with Little White Lies and more than 200 artists for a film-themed exhibition in aid of Art Against Knives and MacMillan Cancer Support.

Designers Timba Smits and ‘Flash’ Gordon Shaw have teamed up with Little White Lies and more than 200 artists for a film-themed exhibition in aid of Art Against Knives and MacMillan Cancer Support.

Not for Rental opens this week at East London gallery 71a and will feature work from studios and individual artists including I Love Dust, The Yok & Sheryo, Gemma Correll, Roman Klonek and Pietari Posti.

The exhibition will be accompanied by talks, screenings and workshops, including art workshops for cancer patients and knife crime victims. All of the art featured will go on sale on July 13, and all proceeds will go to AAK and Macmillan.

Smits and Shaw came up with the idea for Not for Rental just 10 weeks ago, after being personally affected by cancer and knife crime: Smits was stabbed on the way to work in September 2011 and Shaw was diagnosed with a brain tumour late last year. He is now receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

“It’s been a pretty dark 18 months for us both, and movies have been a big part of our lives – Gordon was at my house when he had the seizure that led to his diagnosis,” says Smits.

“When we were on the way to the hospital to pick up his MRI scan results, he told me about an idea he had for a film-related personal project. I had a similar idea and we started talking about how we could fuse the two together. Initially, we thought it would be a good, positive distraction for us both but since then, it’s really taken off,” he adds.

Smits and Shaw approached more than 400 artists and asked each to create something inspired by a film that’s important to them. More than 200 responded, and their choices range from Anchorman to Edward Scissorhands.

Work on display will include photography, typography, street art and illustration, plus some added extras that are to remain secret until the opening night. “In any good movie, there are twists, turns and surprise endings, and we’ve tried to mirror that experience in the exhibition. It’s more than just an art display, but I can’t say any more” he says.

As well as raising money for Macmillan and AAK, Smits and Shaw hope the exhibition will help raise awareness of the devastating and wide reaching impact cancer and knife crime have on those directly affected, and their friends and families.

“For me, the worst thing about being stabbed wasn’t the attack itself – it was the after effects, the flashbacks and the frustration at what had happened. Hopefully, Not for Rental will raise awareness of that ripple effect, and of the fact that cancer doesn’t just affect a patient but their family and their friends, and being stabbed doesn’t just affect the victim – in my case, it affected everyone on the bus that day,” says Smits.

The pair also hope it will provide comfort and inspiration for sufferers. “We’ve already had amazing feedback from people who’ve heard our story saying that we’ve inspired them, and that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve.

“It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you hit hard times and shy away from the world, but we want to encourage people to push through that, get out and do something. This is our way of helping people, and the positivity we’ve experienced working on Not for Rental has also been helping us,” he adds.

Not for Rental opens at London’s 71a Gallery, Leonard Street, London,  EC2A 4QS from July 4 until July 13. For more information, visit

Images (from top): Promotional poster by Timba Smits; Not for Rental illustrations by Andrew Fairclough; Marco Goran Romano; Mauro Gatti, Sam Dunn and Chris Thornley

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