Public Art Registry
The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology
Artwork has been removed.
Photo: Henri Robideau
Didactic, The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology - photo by Henri Robideau
The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology - photo by Henri Robideau
The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology - photo by Henri Robideau
The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology - photo by Henri Robideau
The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology - photo by Henri Robideau
700 Hamilton Street
CBC Vancouver Broadcast Centre Plaza
On the wall to the right of the main entrance of CBC Vancouver.
The artwork has been removed from this location.
Digital print on vinyl
Two-dimensional artwork
No longer in place
Vancouver Heritage Foundation
Description of work

The WALL is a Vancouver Heritage Foundation public art initiative. It is made possible by a partnership between Vancouver Heritage Foundation and CBC Radio-Canada, and is produced in partnership with the City of Vancouver Public Art Program. The WALL features a new artist every year.

Artist statement

In the grand scheme of Vancouver’s heritage, the neon period from 1925 to 1960 is perhaps the city’s most heralded example of its transition from gloomy sawmill town to vibrant metropolis. At the peak of this glowing epoch there were thousands of electrified gas filled glass tubes in the Terminal City’s neon jungle. A big hiccup in this brightlights-big-city story came with the blackouts of WWII when civil defence restrictions lead to a new category of no neon outdoor advertising known as “Spectaculars.”

When McGavin’s Bakery approached Neon Products for an animated neon of Mother Hubbard’s bread, a “Spectacular” was suggested instead. A hand of enormous proportions was proposed, roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty’s, but instead of grasping the eternal flame of freedom, Mother Hubbard’s digits would raise on high a leviathan loaf of liberty bread! Genius! McGavin’s, a big supporter of Victory Bonds, approved.

Ironically, work on the Giant Hand & Loaf didn’t begin until after blackout restrictions had been lifted at the end of the war. Progress slowed when McGavin’s roof required fortification supporting the added weight. Then the “Spectacular” installers were unavailable, preoccupied by a Log Cabin Cookies billboard featuring a real log cabin with smoking chimney and Mom inside whipping up maple creams. Finally in September 1948, the “Spectacular” crew convened on the roof of McGavin’s and over the next four months assembled the sheet metal loaf and concrete mixed with vermiculite hand, and a cuff hiding the steel bridgework. The finished Giant Hand & Loaf stood atop McGavin’s bakery from 1949 through 1973.

When Henri Robideau photographed the Giant Hand & Loaf in February 1973, its cuff had blown away in a wind storm and one of its fingers had rotted off. This image became the first in his life-long photographic study of humanity’s attraction to bigness, a new science he called Gianthropology. He conducted Gianthropological Digs along the Pacific cordillera throughout the 1970’s, culminating in the 1980 exhibition Giant Things, featuring the Giant Hand & Loaf as its signature image. Expanding on that huge success he launched the Pancanadienne Gianthropological Survey, portaging around Canada in the 1980’s, photographing the monumental in the form of panoramic images.

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