Monday, September 29, 2008

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii by Bill Reid [1920-1998], Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. [bronze], and the Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada [plaster]
The pièce de résistance of Bill Reid's work is surely The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, commissioned by the firm of R. J. Reynolds for the new Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. This massive sculpture, which took more than three years to execute and resulted in a price tag of $1.8 million, was unveiled in 1992. The plaster pattern for the bronze cast was a perfect complement to the baroque plaster interiors that architect Douglas Cardinal had created for the new Canadian Museum of Civilization. Long before the completion and opening of the museum in 1989, I had suggested to Maury and Mary Young of Vancouver, the eventual donors, that The Spirit of Haida Gwaii would be the crowning piece in the Grand Hall, signalling that Northwest Coast native culture was not extinct but was, shamanlike, rising from the ashes.
George F. MacDonald, Haida Art, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, p.228