Act IV: Where did you come from? Where did you go?

An-other Gallery

Nika Afsahi, James Albers, Shayla Bradley

a virtual gallery containing only the works that have been reported stolen or missing from the collection, according to the archival documents.

Words from the artists:

 

Through our exploration of the archives, we discovered a lot of information regarding the missing, damaged and neglected works that once were part of the AMS Permanent Collection. As we read the archival documents, we were shocked by the sheer quantity of works that had been damaged, vandalized, or had gone missing while under the care of the AMS and those on the gallery committees. It seemed that as the works went missing, so did any record of them - oftentimes, the estimated cash value from insurance companies was better documented. Though some of these works may not physically be in our possession any longer, as co-owners of the collection, we students would like to bring these works of art back to our immediate attention to acknowledge their presence and continued importance alongside the current permanent collection. 

 

~ Shayla & Nika

'The Red Pot', 1957

Arthur Lismer

oil on canvas.

(this is a black and white image of the painting)

STOLEN

Year acquired: 1957

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Stolen, (removed from frame)

Date reported for incident: April 27th, 1968

Was it ever returned?: No. 

Notes: Arthur Lismer's 'The Red Pot' went missing from the collection in 1968. Many of the documents regarding its disappearance focussed on the worth of the painting, valued at $300 in 1967, and eventually claimed for insurance for $250. It is unclear if there was any interest in its return. 

'Centennial Regatta', 1958

B.C. Binning

oil on canvas

Destroyed

Year acquired1958

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Missing/Destroyed

Date reported for incidentApril 22nd, 1968

Was it ever returned?it was destroyed. 

Notes: 'Centennial Regatta' was also a work donated to the collection by Macleans magazine in 1958. B. C. Binning, the artist of the work, was the founder and head of the Fine Art department of UBC at the time. The painting was stolen in 1968, having been cut out of its frame, which was found on the ground below the Women's Washroom in Brock Hall. Eventually, the painting was found "mutilated and beyond repair". 

'Ashcroft', 1958

Bruno Bobak

oil on canvas

Missing

Year acquired1958

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Missing (twice)

Date reported for incident1968

Was it ever returned?no. 

Notes: 'Ashcroft' was one of the works donated to the collection by Macleans Magazine in 1958. It went missing once in 1969, was recovered in a damaged state in 1970, and then went missing again by the year 1975.  Most discussion surrounding the multiple disappearences were concerned with the insurance value of the painting, which was $460 in 1970. The painting has never been recovered. 

'The Fraser from Sapperton', 1957

Joe Plaskett

oil on canvas

Missing

Year acquired1958

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Missing

Date reported for incident: 1968

Was it ever returned?: yes. 

Notes: 'The Fraser from Sapperton' was also gifted to the AMS by the Macleans magazine in 1958. It was being showcased on a wall in Brock Hall and was reported missing to the authorities. The next day, it was found in 'someone's' office.  

'Tangled Undergrowth', 1957

Gordon Smith

oil on canvas

Missing

Year acquired1958

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Missing

Date reported for incident: 1968

Was it ever returned?: yes. 

Notes: 'Tangled Undergrowth' was also gifted to the AMS by the Macleans magazine in 1958. The committees spent a great deal of time searching storage areas of Brock Hall trying to find the work. It was reported missing alongside 'Ashcroft' by Bruno Bobak, but unlike Bobak's painting, Smith's was eventually recovered meraculuosly. 

'Tension', 1961

Arthur McKay

oil on canvas

Missing

Year acquired1964

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Missing, Damaged

Date reported for incidentApril 26th, 1968

Was it ever returned?yes.

Notes: 'Tension' by Arthur McKay was reported missing in April of 1968. Upon its return, damage was discovered in the form of an ink signature on the painting's surface. 

'On the Bed', 1963

Greg Curnoe

oil and marking ink on masonite

Missing

Year acquired1966

Missing, Stolen, or DamagedMissing+Stolen+Damaged

Date reported for incidentSpring of 1971

Was it ever returned?: yes.

Notes: Greg Curnoe's 'On the Bed' was the largest painting in the collection at the time of its disappearance in the spring of 1971. It was reported that the suspect was known to RCMP as a "transient 4th Avenue hippy type", who the RCMP were not able to locate. Upon its eventual return, the painting's damage consisted of loose nails on the supporting framework, which would require restoration by the artist himself. The painting was restored between 1981-82. 

'Mandala', 1968

Jack Wise

oil in canvas

(No image available) 

Missing

Year acquired1968

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Missing

Date reported for incident1973

Was it ever returned?no. 

Notes: Jack Wise's "Mandala", purchased in 1968, went missing 5 years later in 1973. The painting was never recovered. In 1975, the AMS received $450 insurance compensation for their loss. 

'Apples in a Bowl' or 'Rotten Apples', 1970

Gathie Falk

ceramic sculpture

(No image available) 

Stolen

Year acquired1970

Missing, Stolen, or Damaged: Stolen

Date reported for incidentApril 15th, 1971

Was it ever returned?no. 

Notes: 'Apples in a Bowl' (also referred to as 'Rotten Apples' in some documents)  by Gathie Falk - the only sculpture in the Collection - went missing in April of 1971. It was thought that its compact size made it ideal for theft, and it is unclear whether it was ever returned. Apparently, it was stolen because it was inadequately secured in a display case while on public display.

Scanning the Narrative, 2021

Brittney Wilson

collage of archival documents, yellow ink

Missing Bill Reid Mask, 2021

James Albers & Brittney Wilson

documentation of installation (plinth, archival documents, empty space)

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Words from the artists:

 

We were inspired to make these works after discovering information about a failed acquisition. In 1971, it was brought to the SUB Art Gallery Committee’s attention that there was a lack of Indigenous representation within the collection. They decided to combat this issue by commissioning a work by the prominent Haida artist, Bill Reid. The works we presented above are our reflections on learning about this process.

 

After reading into the documents, we discovered some things about the acquisition process. First, it was decided in the spring of 1976 that the SUB Art Gallery Committee of that year would commission a work by Bill Reid for $1400, later decreased to $1200. The 1976 committee “unanimously and enthusiastically” supported this decision, stressing the prominence and importance of Bill Reid at the time. In 1977, an entirely new set of students sat on the SUB Art Gallery Committee due to the annual turnover in positions on it. Somehow within this transition, the funding for this commission was lost in translation. The 1977 committee no longer felt that they had the sufficient funding or interest in the work to continue along with the commission.

 

By 1978, another committee was installed, and they inhereted the same problems from the year before. Finally, two years after initially reaching out to Bill Reid , they asked him to withdraw the commission due to  "budgetary problems". There was no document of a reply from the artist, but there is also no Bill Reid work in the collection to this date. 

 

Looking into this history, this storyline reveals to us the historical symptom that this collection faces in regards to its dismal representation of Indigenous artists. This also reveals to us the problems posed by having an annual turnover in the governing structure of those who overlook the collection. Larger projects cannot be followed through in a timely manner, and oftentimes, no one student will have a large enough  perspective on the shortcomings of the collection to make any necessary changes. 

 

First, we present a collage entitled ‘Scanning the Narrative’ (2021) created out of the archival documents that told us the history of this failed acquisition and commission. The documents were sifted through and condensed into a succinct collage where the correspondence between the committee and the artist can be followed linearly. 

 

Second, we created an installation entitled ‘Missing Bill Reid Mask’ (2021) that consists of a plinth and the archived correspondence posted above the plinth in an arch. The documents are also displayed in chronological order from which they were written, reading through them in this way can give a clearer picture of the series of events. The empty space in the centre becomes representative of the gap in Indigenous representation that these documents point out to us. 

~James & Brittney

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