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Visual artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' work enters permanent collection of the British Museum
Fabricated from a car hood embellished with copper leaf, Copper from the Hood references the copper shields which are highly valued by the Haida, an indigenous people of Canada, while locating the work within the contemporary context of a world where value is defined by cars and other consumer goods. Photo: Chris Fadden.
VANCOUVER.- Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ work Copper from the Hood (2010) has now found its home in the permanent collection of the prestigious British Museum, after an eighteen month international tour with Treasures of the World’s Cultures. The sculptural work was one of more than 250 cultural treasures which toured the globe with the British Museum exhibition, with stops in Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

Copper from the Hood is one of a series of works which Yahgulanaas began in 2007, while working on the exhibition Meddling in the Museum for the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Canada. Commissioned by the British Museum, this work presents imagery created in Yahgulanaas’ distinctive Haida manga style and is one of a series of fifteen works made with automobile hoods.

Fabricated from a car hood embellished with copper leaf, Copper from the Hood references the copper shields which are highly valued by the Haida, an indigenous people of Canada, while locating the work within the contemporary context of a world where value is defined by cars and other consumer goods.

Jonathan King, retired chief of the British Museum’s department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas and now with Cambridge University, said "What is exceptional about Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' art is the imaginative leap – how Michael's design sense and sure skill in drawing and conceptual realization – enables him to re-situate the Haida. Using crests and formline designs he transcends the traditional to create new works which express contemporary Haida identities.”

Measuring 132cm x 107cm (52” x 42”) the work is designed to be rotated by the viewer and to spark new perspectives from new angles. Depending on the angle, Copper from the Hood may be seen as a bird or a storyteller or something else which the viewer perceives.

“I want the observer to decide which is the preferred horizon,” says Yahgulanaas, “So much of our responsibility as individuals is casually given away that our personal accountability is undermined. At its extreme, this disengaged citizenship seriously weakens the structure and theoretical advantages of democracy. The authority of the artist to say what the work is about need not be at the expense of the observer's own opinions. The rotational technique is a conversation."

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is a contemporary artist whose wide-ranging practice explores themes of identity, environmentalism and the human condition. Influenced by both Haida iconography and contemporary Asian visual culture, he has created an artistic practice that crosses diverse cultures, generations, and disciplines. Raised on the North Pacific archipelago of Haida Gwaii, Yahgulanaas began working as an artist after many decades in the leadership of the Haida nation's successful campaign to maintain authority over their lands and waters. In the past decade, Yahgulanaas' work has been presented in museums across Canada and around the world, including at international exhibitions in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. His art works are in numerous public and private collections including The British Museum (London, England), the Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, Canada), the Glenbow Museum (Calgary, Canada) and the Museum of Anthropology (Vancouver, Canada). His large sculptural works are part of the public art collection of the City of Vancouver in Canada. In 2011/2012, Yahgulanaas was the Audain Professor in Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest at the University of Victoria.





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