Laguna Torcello (2012) is part of Chihuly’s Mille Fiori series
I have never met a museum I didn’t like. No surprise as I am always intrigued by what breathtaking works of art can be found inside. Whether it is a fine art museum like New York’s MoMA, The Dali Museum Theatre in Spain or The Art Institute of Chicago, museums are a passion of mine. There are two things that I will always look for when I am traveling: (1) where to find an ‘authentic’ meal from that part of the world and; (2) which famous museum or public art piece resides in that city. Maybe it is a guilty pleasure because to see a museum you are likely traveling and I love to travel. In the last year, I have been lucky enough to see the brand new Pierre Lassonde Pavilion of the Musee des beaux arts Quebec in Quebec City, The Art Gallery of Vancouver for the Picasso and his Muses exhibit and last fall the Dale Chihuly Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. This was not the first time I had seen a Chihuly piece. My first experience was years ago when I visited the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and saw the gigantic ceiling installation Fiori di Como (1998).
I was in St. Petersburg, Florida and was pleasantly surprised by two marvelous museums: The Dalí Museum and The Chihuly Collection both fairly new museums but housing amazing collections. Located in downtown St. Petersburg, The Chihuly Collection is part of the Morean Arts Center, a gallery designed precisely and permanently for displaying his works, a true Chihuly museum. You can tour the collection and then head over to the Center for a glass blowing display. The entrance fee is a bit steep for the number of pieces that you will see but if you are a true art fan, you will not regret handing over $19.95 (this includes admission to the glass blowing demonstration).
You can see some of Chihuly’s iconic works including: The Collection includes Chihuly’s spectacular large-scale installations such as Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier created specifically for the Collection along with several popular series works including Macchia Forest, Ikebana, Niijima Floats, Persians and Tumbleweeds. I don’t recall seeing Macchia Forest before (or a version of these large flowers) so I was pleased to see something new. You will often see a thematic repetition but since each piece is truly unique, you are unlikely to see the exact same piece. The collection also had a series of long stem lowers in vases which mimics Japanese Ikebana flora arrangements with a few long stemmed flowers. Each one of these pieces was a small masterpiece. As per the usual, Chihuly used vibrant colours to set off the flowers.
“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way that they’ve never experienced.” – Dale Chihuly
I loved this exhibit because it was very compact. It also had a few pieces that are repeated in other Chihuly exhibits for example the the row boat full of glass balls called Niijima Floats. These orbs are also meant to float in water. This is a theme that Chihuly enjoys very much and began in Finland when one of his assistants decided to place some of the orbs and glass balls into a row boat and send it adrift. I was happy to see one of the boats in this permanent collection.
The chandeliers were stunning. It boggles the mind to figure out how Chihuly and his assistants manage to piece together these complicated pieces. Chihuly no longer does any of the glass blowing. Injured in a car crash he had lost sight in one eye and has problems with his legs and ankles. So being able to hold, blow, twist and turn some of these pieces is very arduous work. He designs his works of art but has others execute the last pieces. However, he has an overall vision for the pieces. This process has not been without its problems, Chihuly has recently been sued by one of his assistants for millions for not sharing credit.
Last summer I was in Montreal and saw his $1.000,000 seasonal piece. It was a temporary installment that became a permanent piece. It stands as a sort of tree in front of the Musee des Beaux Arts de Montreal. It is assembled each spring to signal the beginning of the warm weather and then disassembled in the fall to be put away for the winter.
I found The Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg to be a fraction in size to the exhibit that came to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) last fall. The ROM exhibit was probably one of the largest exhibits to be mounted. The Toronto exhibit had 11 outstanding installations and it truly was a stunning display of glass arts. The exhibit arrived in Toronto in two transport trucks holding over 1,100 pieces. It was assembled by 11 people that work with Dale Chihuly. Chihuly’s work is included in more than 220 museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass. Chihuly has permanent exhibits all over the world. The first one I saw was the glass ceiling installation at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. It a large installation with thousands of individual pieces. I think one of the pieces displayed at the ROM was similar but in a smaller scale.
Dale Chihuly has been elevating the Studio Glass movement for over 30 years. Based out of Seattle, Washington, he works with a team of glass blowers as he stopped blowing glass after an injury a few years ago. Once you entered the exhibit, the magnitude and depth of his work hits you. It is bold bright and very textural with layer upon layer of glass and colour. There are different heights, shaped, colours and surfaces. You can look at his pieces from a few different angle and never see the same thing – ever. I have looked at the pictures I took last year and still see something new, fresh and amusing.
Dale Chihuly is credited with revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement and elevating the perception of the glass medium from the realm of craft to fine art. He has created ambitious architectural installations around the world, in historic cities, museums and gardens. Chihuly’s work is included in more than 225 museum collections worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass (which I will see next fall for TBEX North America). Major exhibitions include Chihuly Over Venice (1995-96), Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem (1999), Garden Cycle (2001–present), de Young Museum in San Francisco (2008), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2011), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (2012) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal (2013).
I hope to one day travel to the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle to see his pieces outdoor. I cannot imagine what the chandeliers would have looked like in Chihuly Over Venice in 1995-96. Can you imagine those chandeliers hanging from different posts, hovering over a walkway or plaza. Amazing really.
Red Reeds on a log– The ROM exhibit 2016