Melanie Smith was born in Poole, England in 1965. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Reading. Since 1989 she has lived and worked in Mexico City, an experience that has enormously influenced her works ever since. Her work has been characterized by a certain re-reading of the formal and aesthetic categories of avant-gardes and post-avant-garde movements, problematized at the sites and within the horizons of heterotopias. Her production is intimately related to a certain expanded vision of the notion of modernity, maintaining a relationship both with what this means in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, and with the implication this has for her formal explorations as a critical moment in the aesthetic-political structure of modernity and late modernity.
Her earlier pieces considered Mexico City itself, recording its multitudes, its violence, its banality, and its clandestine nature and at the same time its inherent decomposition. The most outstanding piece from this cycle is the video Spiral city (2002). In another of her works, she broadens the notions of place and non-place by documenting the small town of Parres on the outskirts of the city. She produced a trilogy of 35mm films and a series of paintings and installations that rework the modernist idea of the monochromatic.
Her work has been exhibited at numerous institutions, both nationally and internationally, including: P. S. 1, New York; MoMA, New York, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; ICA, Boston; Tate Liverpool; Tate Modern, London; South London Gallery, London; Lima Art Museum; Tamayo Museum, Contemporary Art University Museum and El Eco Experimental Museum, Mexico City; and Monterrey Museum, among others. Her individual exhibitions include: "Parres," Tate Britain (2006); "Six steps to reality," Museum of Contemporary Art – San Diego; "Parres," Miami Art Museum, and "Spiral city and other artificial pleasures," a retrospective exhibition that traveled from the University Museum of Science and the Arts (MUCA) in Mexico City to The Lab in Denver (2008) and the MIT List in Boston (2009). She has produced two artist's books: Spiral city and other artificial pleasures (2006) and Parres (2008). She holds a grant from the National System of Art Creators of the FONCA (Mexico).