The Smart Museum is named for brothers David and Alfred Smart, entrepreneurs who capitalized on a previously overlooked market for male fashion and culture.
Their formidable Chicago-based publishing empire became known as Esquire, Inc, after the jewel in its crown, Esquire: The Magazine for Men, which was first published in 1933. They went on to launch other magazines—Apparel Arts, the parent magazine of today’s GQ, in 1931; Coronet in 1936; Verve in 1937; and Ken in 1938. The Smart brothers also founded Coronet Instructional Films in the late 1930s, a production company inspired by David’s home movie hobby.
After David and Alfred passed away, their youngest brother, John, took the helm of the family business.
Under his leadership, the Smart Family Foundation determined to found the museum. Since then, the Smart family and its Foundation have stayed active in the museum, encouraging—through their continued financial support and guidance—the support of many others, equally dedicated to the visual arts.
“David and Alfred Smart were workers in the labor force of the arts...As such, they would be pleased and honored today to know that their efforts to broaden the appreciation of art will be carried on, in their name, and on the highest level.”
—John Smart, Smart Family Foundation, groundbreaking, October 29, 1974