This black-patinated bronze sculpture represents a canoe crowded with thirteen figures. The angled photo shows seven of them: a raven, two men, a wolf, an eagle, a frog and a bear. The sculpture sits in a shallow pool.

Bill Reid

(Victoria 1920 – Vancouver 1998)

 

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black Canoe

1991

Cast bronze with black patina

605 x 389 x 348 cm 

Gift of Nabisco Brands Limited, 1991

Collection of Global Affairs Canada

Courtesy of the Canadian Embassy, Washington DC. Reproduced with the permission of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Global Affairs Canada, 2017.

© Estate of Bill Reid. Photo: Keegan Bursaw 


The sculpture The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black Canoe depicts thirteen mythological Haida figures in a canoe. Evoking the realms of earth, sky and sea, the passengers are linked together in a spirit of communion, with the wolf chewing the eagle’s wing, the eagle biting the bear’s paw, and so forth. In 1985, the Canadian government commissioned Bill Reid to design this work for the new Canadian Embassy building in Washington. A second bronze cast of the sculpture is installed at the Vancouver International Airport, while the plaster model is held at the Canadian Museum of History.


Although The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black Canoe was unveiled in 1991, it fittingly represents 2004 here. That was the year the Bank of Canada issued a new $20 bill depicting the sculpture. The Métis artist Bill Reid is considered one of the leading lights of Canadian Indigenous art. His practice is often described as being at the intersection of Haida art tradition and Western modern art innovation. In addition to creating large-scale commissioned sculptures like The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, Reid worked in jewellery-making and many other mediums.

EMBASSY OF CANADA, WASHINGTON, D.C.
501 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington D.C., 20001
United State
1 202 682-1740

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A second cast of the sculpture is installed at the Vancouver International Airport, while the plaster model is held at the Canadian Museum of History.

CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HISTORY
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau (Quebec), K1A 0M8
1 800 555-5621

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VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
3211 Grant McConachie Way
Richmond (British Colombia), V7B 0A4
604 207-7077

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The $20 banknote that features Bill Reid’s sculpture The Spirit of Haida Gwaii was issued by the Bank of Canada from 2004 to 2012. Celebrating art and culture, the bill also illustrates three other works by Reid: the sculpture The Raven and the First Men (1983), the print Haida Grizzly Bear – Xhuwaji (1990) and a section of the frieze Mythic Messengers (1985). The Bank completed the Canadian panorama with these words from the novel The Hidden Mountain, by the Franco-Manitoban author Gabrielle Roy (1909-1983): “Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?”

Bank of Canada

 

Canadian $20 banknote

2012

Canadian Journey series

Theme: Arts and Culture

Reproduced with the permission of the Bank of Canada