The Haida artist, Bill Reid, continues to inspire admiration for the range of his artistic, literary and poetic talents. His art is so exquisite and his legacies so important, they must be preserved. And his personal collection of his art and memorabilia must remain intact and in Canada.
Following Bill Reid's death, governments, members of the First Nations and arts communities, and friends of Bill and Martine Reid, shared these views and the vision that a permanent memorial to this great Canadian artist should be created. That his story must be told and the collection of his works exhibited in a manner and place accessible to future generations. That his legacies must not be lost.
Accordingly, the Bill Reid Foundation was established as a not-for-profit society in January 1999 -- its mission to preserve the art and perpetuate the legacies of Bill Reid
Bill Reid is one of Canada's great artists of the 20th century. Goldsmith-turned-sculptor, carver, writer -- he was truly a renaissance man.
In a long career, he embraced many art forms, driven always by a passion to create the “well made object”. This passion, combined with a gradual discovery of his rich Haida cultural heritage, informed and inspired his development as a visual artist of tremendous power and brilliant accomplishment.
Born in 1920, a Canadian of a Haida mother and father of European descent, he was brought up, and lived most of his life, in British Columbia. When he died in March 1998, he left a legacy of magnificent works of art from the most intricate to the monumental.
Bill Reid was the pivotal force in introducing to the world the great art traditions of the Aboriginal peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America. His legacies include infusing that tradition with modern ideas and forms of expression, influencing emerging artists, and building lasting bridges between First Nations and other peoples.The Collection
The Foundation's collection now consists of 115 works of Bill Reid's art - gold jewellery, as well as silver items, carvings out of wood, wire sculptures, drawings, artist proof prints, and memorabilia and works given to Reid by other artists. Many of these pieces have never been seen publicly.
Dr. Martine Reid donated their personal collection to the Bill Reid Foundation in November 2002, along with the rights to reproduce most of the works. As part of the gift agreement, the Foundation purchased some of the works with the generous support of the Government of Canada, the Fei and Milt Wong Family Foundation, W. Maurice and Mary M. Young, and Toni and Hildegard Cavelti, as well as other donors. The agreement ensures that the Collection remains intact, in the public realm, and in British Columbia.
In April 2001, The BCE Group donated Bill Reid's first bronze sculpture to the Foundation - a stunning high-relief bronze frieze called Mythic Messengers
. The sculpture is 8.5 m long, 1.2 m high, and 45.7 cm deep. While the Foundation is working to establish its permanent home, Mythic Messengers
is on loan to the Vancouver International Airport, where it is mounted in the International Terminal close to Reid's iconic monumental work, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii. A 'National Gallery of Aboriginal Art'
On the Foundation's agenda since its inception is the establishment of a permanent home for its growing Collection, in Vancouver. During consultations on the nature of the gallery, the Foundation has been urged by artists and the cultural community to expand its project to include the work of all Aboriginal artists of Canada, and to act as a catalyst to move the project forward.
The idea of a national institution for all Canadian Aboriginal art - historic and contemporary - in Vancouver, has gained considerable national support and momentum. As Canadian Aboriginal art takes its rightful place in the mainstream of national and international cultural activity, the lack of a major showcase dedicated to this work becomes increasingly apparent. Currently, Aboriginal art can be found in a number of institutions across Canada and around the world, but no single major public institution exists in which the remarkably rich and varied manifestation of the modern and contemporary is celebrated, nor is it permanently exhibited in context.
The concept is to establish a national gallery of Canadian Aboriginal art - Indian, Inuit and Métis; past and present - in Vancouver, in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics (working name for the proposed institution is National Gallery of Aboriginal Art).
The Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Summit of BC have endorsed the idea by formal resolutions and pledged to help realize the new gallery. Other national organizations have also endorsed it and yet others are pending. The Bill Reid Foundation would cede its growing collection should such an institution become a reality.
With the concept meeting widespread support from Aboriginal artists and leaders, other leaders in the arts and general community, and the governments at all three levels, the next step is for expert museum consultants to develop a Realization Plan, including the nature of the facility, its collection and curation, its governance and financing. The Foundation is currently seeking funding for the work. Action must be taken quickly if the new gallery is to be ready by end-2009.
Media contact: Audrey Rockingham Gill, 604-730-2905
850 - One Bentall Centre, 505 Burrard St. Box 70,
Vancouver, BC, V7X 1M4, Canada
tel: 604.682-3455 fax: 604.682.3310www.billreidfoundation.org