Fonds - Kenneth Coutts-Smith fonds

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Kenneth Coutts-Smith fonds

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  • 1937-1987, predominant 1952-1981 (Creation)
    Coutts-Smith, Kenneth

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Physical description

427 cm of textual records and other material

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Kenneth Coutts-Smith was a British artist, critic, and historian of art and culture, born September 1929 in Copenhagen, Denmark. His first solo exhibitions in the United Kingdom and France in 1952 were followed by shows in Stockholm in 1953, Strasbourg in 1954, and several shows in London 1957 to 1965. As well as painting during these years, Coutts-Smith also wrote and published poetry, short stories, and a novel Fuglefrith, and began a career as a journalist of art and society, publishing numerous reviews, articles, interviews, and catalogue introductions. He was also active as a gallery administrator in London from 1962 to 1969, as secretary of the Drian Gallery, London, managing the New Vision Centre gallery, and as organizing secretary of the Commonwealth Biennale of Abstract Art. Complementing his activity as an art critic dating from around 1963, Coutts-Smith began to lecture widely in England and accepted teaching appointments at Liverpool College of Art in 1967 and Harrow College of Art, London, in 1968. Critical study of art and society led to two books published in his lifetime, The Dream of Icarus and Dada, which appeared in 1970. A third The Demise of the Avant-Garde collected together essays from the decade 1970-1980, and is yet to be published posthumously. In 1970 Coutts-Smith emigrated to Canada, teaching as a professor at the University of Calgary, University of Manitoba, York University in Toronto, and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, continuing to be active as a curator, from 1974 at Gallery 111, Winnipeg, lecturing in Europe, North America and Australia, and producing film and video works as well as mail art and paintings, notably the series Artexts shown in Halifax in 1980. He took considerable interest in contemporary art of Eastern Europe, collecting works by Yugoslav artists, and traveled also to study Canadian Inuit artists in 1975 and Australian aboriginal communities in 1980. Coutts-Smith died in 1981 in Toronto, Canada.

Custodial history

The CustodialHistory of the fonds is varied. The majority of artists biographical files were sent to the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, along with audio reels and tapes. These were subsequently transferred to the Belkin Gallery, to join other Coutts-Smith material donated by Helen K. Wright. A library of fine arts books from the Coutts-Smith estate was retained by NCSAD. Some material remained in the possession of Helen K. Wright, including files relating to Artexts, additional artists files, and other documentation. These were donated to the Belkin between 1993 and 1997. Other small accruals to the fonds come periodically from Ms. Wright as she locates them, although these have become more infrequent in recent years.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts, drafts and proofs of essays, articles, art reviews, and lectures, books, poetry, short stories and a novel, curricula vitae, drawings, prints, posters, audio and video recordings, films, photographic prints, negatives and transparencies, scrapbook, exhibition catalogues, newspaper cuttings and other periodicals, a collection of material about artists, and miscellaneous items. Some of the material in the fonds were added by Helen K. Wright, who organized posthumous shows of Coutts-Smith works, gave lectures on KCS and gathered obituaries and other material relating to her deceased former husband. The fonds has been divided into the following series: artists files, Yugoslav artists files, manuscript and research files, Artexts, press and publicity files and biographical files.

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Series and file lists available. Item lists available for some files. Online Finding Aid

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BCAUL control number: MHB-5

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