After 24 years, Vancouver’s Spirit Wrestler Gallery is closing its doors. Founded in 1995 by Derek Norton, Nigel Reading and Gary Wyatt, the gallery became well-known for showcasing the work of a host of leading Indigenous artists from across Canada and beyond.
Since its inception, the gallery has represented a number of celebrated contemporary and historic Inuit artists such as Paul Malliki as well as Nunatsiavummiut sculptors Billy Gauthier and Michael Massie, OC.
Reading, responsible for Inuit and Maori art at the gallery, began working with Massie in 1999. Upon the artist’s recommendation, he soon began representing Gauthier in 2006.
“It has been a unique opportunity where I've been able to work one-to-one and build a very special friendship beyond the art with two great artists, Michael Massie and Billy Gauthier, who I consider very personal friends,” Reading notes about his work with the sculptors. “I've been delighted to support their careers and represent their art. The credit goes to these two artists who have integrity, honesty and have been fully supportive in allowing me to work with them and build their careers.”
In November of 2016, faced with escalating rent prices across the city, the gallery moved from their former space in Gastown to the Armoury District near Granville Island. “The need to renew the lease along with no transition plan in place prompted our decision to close,” Spirit Wrestler explains in a letter sent to subscribers and supporters as well as posted online on August 1, 2019.
“I like to think that we're a gallery of integrity,” Reading continues. “We've had a lot of fun. We've seen some great days and have many fond memories of great artists as well as great clients. Like everything in life, there's always a beginning, a middle and an end. And, this felt like the right time to end.”
Spirit Wrestler will close to the public as of October 15, 2019, with operations ending on October 31, 2019.