Contemporary American Art at the National Gallery of Canada (1967-79): The Surprising Legacy of Brydon E. Smith

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Ferguson, Ian Cameron




This thesis draws upon Bruno Latour’s concept of Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) to assess the active mediator role played by Brydon E. Smith, the National Gallery of Canada’s (NGC) first Curator of Contemporary Art, as the NGC began to collect postwar American art. Considering the ensuing expansion of its collection from 1967 to 1979, I focus specifically on Smith’s survey exhibitions of artists James Rosenquist (1968), Dan Flavin (1969), Donald Judd (1975) and their related acquisitions, as well as one by Jackson Pollock. Documentary sources in the NGC archives and a questionnaire and interviews
with former colleagues of Smith have provided important insights into his curatorial choices and methodology. This research clarifies how curatorial agency may shape the aesthetics and coherence of a public collection. The NGC’s newly acquired credibility in a broader North American cultural context is demonstrated through the critical reception of Smith’s exhibitions, publications and acquisitions.


Art History




Carleton University

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Art History

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Theses and Dissertations

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