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UBC Museum of Anthropology receives private "treasure" of early Bill Reid works
Bill Reid. Frog brooch, 1970, gold metal. Dr. Sydney and Dr. Constance Livingstone Friedman Collection, UBC Museum of Anthropology.

VANCOUVER, BC.- An important collection of early works by one of Canada’s best loved artists, Bill Reid, can be seen by the public for the first time thanks to a major donation to UBC’s Museum of Anthropology from Vancouver’s Friedman family.

The Haida artist created eleven intricate pieces of gold and silver jewellery over a 20-year period (1954-1974) for Sydney Friedman and his late wife Constance Livingstone-Friedman, who were longstanding UBC professors and early patrons of Reid.

Standouts of the collection include an exquisite gold bracelet featuring a raven with cut-out wings and feathers (1955), a gold brooch and matching earrings (1955), a hinged silver bracelet with an eagle motif (1972), and a silver picture frame fully engraved with a bear motif (1954).

“This collection has outstanding significance, not only as a representation of Bill Reid’s extraordinary early work – and the value of such material for the study of Canadian art history – but also in encompassing one collector-family’s relationship with the artist over a 20-year period,” says MOA curator Bill McLennan.

The new pieces, valued at more than $500,000, expand MOA’s Bill Reid collection – already the world’s largest public one – to 250 pieces, including carvings, drawings, metalwork, and sculptural masterpieces such as The Raven and the First Men, which depicts a version of the Haida people’s origin story, and is on permanent display at the museum.

“My wife cherished wearing these beautiful pieces by our friend Bill, and wanted the greater community to enjoy them after she left,” says Friedman, noting that only two pieces in the collection have previously been exhibited. “I am very proud to make this gift, because it honours one of Constance’s dearest wishes, and because it also reflects our deep history with UBC.”

The Friedmans were founding faculty members of UBC’s Faculty of Medicine in 1950. Dr. Sydney Friedman, 96, led UBC’s Dept. of Anatomy for 30 years, authoring a three-volume “visual atlas” for medical students. Dr. Constance Livingstone-Friedman, who passed away in June 2011 at the age of 91, taught histology and anatomy to medical and dental students. Together they published more than 200 research papers on salt and hypertension.

Bill Reid (1920-1998) was a pivotal force in introducing to the world the great art traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast. His legacies include infusing these traditions with modern ideas and forms of expression.

The Friedman collection displays Reid’s technical and artistic virtuosity at a period when he was experimenting with European goldsmithing techniques (casting, overlay and repoussé), exploring and seeking to ‘make modern’ the motifs of historical Haida art and mythology, McLennan adds.

The Friedmans’ eleven-piece collection of jewellery is on display in MOA’s Bill Reid Rotunda starting today. Their gift includes two other objects – a print by Reid and a historical Northwest Coast bracelet by an unknown artist – which will be exhibited later this year.

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