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Kenneth Coutts-Smith

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Vital Dates:
Born: 1929
Died: 1981


Kenneth Coutts-Smith was a British artist, critic, and historian of art and culture, born September 1929 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He studied painting at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art (London) and the Grande Chaumiére (Paris). 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 from 1957 to 1965. As well as painting during these years, Coutts-Smith also wrote and published poetry, short stories, and a novel, Fuglefrith. Likewise, he 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 both appeared in 1970. A third, The Demise of the Avant-Garde, collected together essays from the decade 1970 to 1980, and is yet to be published posthumously. In the years after his death there was an effort made to publish the manuscript, and again in the early 1990s when the material was donated to the Belkin Art Gallery.

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.

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