Canada’s art community is mourning the loss of several “critical and significant” works after thieves stole 12 pieces of gold jewelry crafted by famed Haida artist Bill Reid.
Sometime Friday night or Saturday morning, thieves broke into the Museum of Anthropology at the University of B.C. and stole 12 pieces of gold jewelry, including a gold box, a broach and a pipe, from a glass case in the Bill Reid Rotunda.
Three gold Mexican necklaces were also stolen from a different part of the museum.
“It’s a huge cultural loss,” said Peter Malkin, acting director of the Bill Reid Gallery. “Bill Reid is not on the $20 bill for nothing. He’s the pinnacle. He’s the equivalent of Leonardo or Michelangelo.”
Moya Waters, associate director at the Museum of Anthropology, said the theft is devastating.
“Bill Reid was an icon to Canadian culture and to British Columbia,” she said. “He had a very significant role in the renaissance of First Nations art in the 50s and 60s.”
Waters would not discuss how the thieves got into the building. Neither would she say whether the robbery was captured on a surveillance camera about three metres from the display case.
She would not say what the pieces were worth, but said the cultural loss is more significant than the monetary loss.
Malkin said it would be difficult to fence the items and fears the artwork will be melted down, if they are not held for ransom.
“The value is not in the metal, it’s in the heritage and artistic tradition.”