Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Benaki Museum Space

After many years, the Totem Pole has been moved to the Benaki museum.  This museum houses some of the great works of art by fine artists all over the world.  The experts that take care of this museum are familiar with many different forms of restoration, so the Totem Pole is in good hands.
While the Totem Pole is being fumigated for ants, there is a space waiting for its arrival.  The plan is to have the Totem Pole on display as it's being restored.  This open space will allow the public to watch the restoration in person, as well as allow school children to interact and learn more about this Canadian art form.  If you come and visit, you'll be able to talk with Andrew Todd, the Totem Pole restoration expert that will be coming from Canada to do this work.  The Benaki museum is also planning several interactive lectures with Mr Todd.
Now this space is empty, but soon it will be a place to watch a piece of Canadian heritage being restored.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When The Pole Came To Greece

Foreign Affairs Canada have it recorded that this totem was a gift to the Canadian Embassy in Athens from the Premier of the Canadian province of British Columbia. The Premier's name was W. A. Bennett (he was Premier starting August 1, 1952 till September 15, 1972), while the Canadian Ambassador in Greece at the time was Mr. M. Gauvin. The gift was made during the term of Mr. Gauvin's ambassadorship, between 1970 and 1975.
For a short time the Totem Pole was on display at the front door of the embassy, but after some re-design of the lobby it had to be moved.  The decision was to move it into the garden of the Official Residence. Some might argue that it was a bad choice to move this piece of art outdoors, but there's also merit in displaying this fine piece of art in a natural surrounding.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Animals Represented On The Chief's Crest Pole

The Chief's Crest Pole consists of four sections, each section adding to the story of the totem pole.  Many people used to believe that these different representations had a religious meaning, but as Chief Hunt mentioned the totem poles were used as markers and communication tools, not as religious symbols.
The top of the Chief's Crest Pole is topped with the Chief with Conical Hat.
Bellow the Chief with conical hat is the Raven. 
In the mouth of the Raven is the Frog.
At the base is the Whale, with his fin possibly facing in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Damage We Can See

While we're not an experts in totem pole restoration, we can tell you what damage we can see on the Chief's Crest Pole.  Most of it seems to have come about from being outside in the warm (and sometimes very chilly) Mediterranean environment.  As you can imagine this pole was not designed to survive in these conditions, so there's no doubt a little environmental wear and tear.  Most notably there is a lot of paint that has either faded or flaked off.  It seems like it gets worse the lower down the totem pole you go.
The base is the point of greatest damage.  Although it's been attached to a metal stand to keep it out of direct contact with the ground, the moisture seems to have creeped up never the less.  This is also the entry point for our little ant problem.
There are also signs of past repairs, mostly in off coloured wood putty blotches found around the fin/beak, and also near the base.
This brings me to the most mysterious damage found on the totem pole, the beak/fin.  Many years ago I was told that this piece had fallen off.  Apparently no one wanted to take the step to fix it immediately and the piece was set aside waiting to be properly repaired.  Eventually it was discovered in a box and re-attached.  The story is that when Chief Hunt came to visit he noticed something odd about the totem pole.  As it turns out he claimed that what people assumed was a beak of an animal, is in fact a fin.  And this fin may have been fixed improperly, apparently it might be upside down.  I guess we'll see for sure when the Chief's Crest Pole is fully restored.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Look At Chief Tony Hunt

The artist of this Totem Pole is Chief Tony Hunt (A First Nations artist of Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) ancestry), whom along with his uncle and two cousins carved the Totem Pole in the 1960s. Apparently the carving took approximately a month and half to finish.
Chief Hunt mentioned that the tools used were not very advanced (no chainsaws) for this Totem Pole and that's why the carvings "aren't very deep". Tony Hunt recalls carving the totem, and on the basis of his recommendation, Foreign Affairs Canada has changed the title of the totem to "Chief's Crest Pole".
Today Chief Hunt lives in British Columbia and his artwork is available in many galleries all over the country.  His Totem Poles can be found all over the world including Japan and Mexico. He is also responsible for the for the KwaGulth ceremonial Big House, considered to be the largest of it's kind in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Before and After

Before any real restoration started on the totem pole, we wanted to make sure we had a proper before and after picture.  It was important to get this picture of not only just the totem pole in it's pre-restored condition, but also at it's old home in the garden surrounded by lush green vegetation.
We hope that by the end of this project we'll be able to post the same pictures with the totem pole in its new home looking bright and colourful once again.  We'll also post work in progress shots as the project continues as well.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Inspecting Some Ants

We just got back from the museum to take a look at our ant problem, and work out what can be done about them.  When we had last seen the Totem Pole there were many dead ants at the bottom of the crate, but we couldn't really see that many actually walking around.  Today was a different story, today the Totem Pole appeared to be covered in ants.
We spoke to an art conservator whom is an expert on dealing with infestations in wood, and he gave us several options, all of which will be worked out by the head conservator as to which will work best.
There was also a bit of a concern about some holes found at the base of the Totem Pole as well.  It looks like these holes may have been caused by termites.  No termites have actually been found on the Totem Pole, but this evidence might create some problems in the future.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Fond Farewell To The Totem Pole

Ambassador Robert Peck and his wife Maria Pantazi-Peck say their goodbyes to the Totem Pole before the big move.

From the Official Residence:

"The garden of the Official Residence in Athens is not quite the same since Chief Tony Hunt's totem left last week for restoration at the Benaki Museum. The totem was the focal point of the garden and at night, stood out as a proud symbol of Canada's First Nation's heritage beneath the towering palms.

Chief Hunt's visit last year was a highlight of the totem story. At an evening talk about his art attended by diplomats and cultural contacts, Hunt emotionally told us that the totem in Athens was only the third he had carved at the very start of his career. Who would have thought of such a reunion in Athens almost 40 years later!

Although the totem's absence leaves a major void, the sun and heat over the years had started to exact a heavy toll. A face-lift will no doubt bring back much of the work's original resonance.

Pending plans for the totem's future in an indoor location, it will be on display following restoration at the Benaki Museum in Athens so that members of the Greek public, especially children, will learn about Canada's history and diversity."

Maria Pantazi-Peck, spouse of Robert Peck, Ambassador of Canada to the Hellenic Republic