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Haida Art: Mapping an Ancient Language
A selection of remarkable objects from the McCord’s collection of historic Haida art

Montréal, April 21, 2006 - The McCord Museum will present Haida Art: Mapping an Ancient Language from April 29 to October 22, 2006. The exhibition features objects from the rarely displayed McCord collection of historic Haida masterpieces dating to the 18th and 19th century.

The McCord Haida collection is one of the earliest and most significant in North America - the majority of items collected in 1878 by George Mercer Dawson during his travels to Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) off the Northwest Coast. The exhibition highlights over eighty extraordinary objects including carved feast bowls, bentwood boxes, a woven and painted hat, masks and rattles as well as argillite sculptures. These remarkable artworks provide a glimpse of the artistic and cosmological universe of Haida culture in all its splendour and complexity.

The Haida artistic style can be compared to a formal language based on a kind of visual grammar, with a vocabulary that consists of animals and mythological creatures, depicted in a naturalistic or an abstract style. This vocabulary forms a narrative that could indicate the function of an object, tell a story, identify the lineage of a social group or explore philosophical ideas. Often the design composition is so abstract that the creatures represented are not identifiable, its meaning embedded in oral tradition, ancestral privilege and the cultural knowledge of its maker and owner.

Contemporary Haida artists are constantly exploring this ancient language in their art - it is the foundation on which new endeavours are built and the grammar with which future histories are written. The McCord was delighted when renowned Haida artist Robert Davidson accepted the invitation to visit the Museum to guide the curatorial team in the selection of artworks. His insights are woven into the exhibition commentary.

"The influence of traditional Haida pieces on the work of contemporary artists cannot be underestimated," says the McCord’s Executive Director, Dr. Victoria Dickenson. "The presentation of Haida historical artworks in conjunction with a major exhibition of works by a leading contemporary Haida artist offers an unparalleled opportunity, not only to appreciate the artworks of Robert Davidson, but to understand the historical context and sources of inspiration for his work."

Haida Art: Mapping an Ancient Language is on view at the McCord Museum from April 29 until October 22, 2006. It accompanies the exhibition Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge, which runs from May 27 to October 15, 2006.

To complement the exhibitions, the McCord will hold a symposium on Friday, May 26, 2006 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. entitled The Abstract Edge: Robert Davidson and Contemporary Aboriginal Arts Practice. Organized in conjunction with the Department of Art History, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University and the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, it will bring together artists, curators and academics from across Canada to discuss Aboriginal contemporary art. Invited speakers include: Robert Davidson, Guy Sioui Durand, Mattiusi Iyaituk, Sylvie Poirier, Sherry Farrell Racette and Carmen Robertson. For further information, please contact (514) 398-7100 ext. 305 or info@mccord.mcgill.ca.

Museum Hours & Admission

The McCord is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends and Mondays during the summer months from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance fees (including taxes) are $10 general admission, $7.50 for seniors, $5.50 for students, $3 for children between the ages of 6 and 12, and $20 for families. Museum admission is free of charge to Friends of the McCord and children aged five and under. The museum offers free entry to all visitors the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The McCord

The McCord is home to one of the finest historical collections in North America. It possesses some of Canada’s most significant cultural treasures, including the most comprehensive collection of clothing made or worn in Canada; an extensive collection related to Aboriginal history and art; and the renowned Notman Photographic Archives.

Photographs available upon request.

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Source and information:

Nike Langevin, Head of Communications and Promotion
(514) 398-7100, ext. 251

Karine Di Genova, Officer, Communications
(514) 398-7100, ext. 239

The McCord wishes to acknowledge the support of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Arts Council of Montréal.