“This is hot new stuff,” said Charles A. Shepard III, the museum's executive director. “I'm very excited about the future of studio glass. It really is taking off.”
It's been more than 11 years since the first Chihuly show at the FWMoA. His glass pieces are well-known throughout the world, thanks in part to a piece that was a fixture on the set of the TV show “Frasier.” The spectacular glass ceiling of the Bellagio Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is another well-known Chihuly installation.
Around 50 Chihuly pieces are coming to the FWMoA on loan from the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. “They own an incredible collection of Chihuly,” Shepard said, much of which is in storage. The pieces that are out are placed within the conservatory gardens.
Shepard doesn't intend to try to re-create a garden with potted plants in the FWMoA. For one thing, due to insurance restrictions he can't have plants being moved around the glass pieces. And aesthetically, he thinks any attempt at creating a real garden “is going to read like a fake garden.”
So he will use theatrical screens and fabrics to create the illusion of a garden. “I don't really want to pretend to be a literal garden, I'd rather be more of a metaphysical garden,” he said.
Shepard said he can only plan out the exhibit to a certain extent, and then will have to wait for the pieces to arrive. Then FWMoA employees will have 72 hours to prepare the exhibit. Shepard predicts they will “live, eat and sleep in the gallery.”
The pieces in this Chihuly exhibit will be quite different from what was in the last one, which featured chandeliers and smaller wall pieces, Shepard said. This exhibit will focus on simpler shapes — tall, slender cylindrical pieces, round orbs, big open vases. “It's going to be Chihuly from a different angle,” Shepard said.
The two other glass shows will complement the Chihuly exhibit. “Habatat Presents: 41st International Glass Invitational” features 26 of the best studio glass artists in the world. “The Chihuly Effect: Pushing the Boundaries of Studio Glass” looks at how Chihuly's success paved the way for other studio glass artists to push the boundaries.
“Most of the sculpture being done today, I feel like I've seen it before,” Shepard said. “This glass stuff … it's fresh.”
Chihuly's name recognition will bring people in, Shepard said, but the other artists' work is impressive, too — such as Stan Libensky's work in the International show, which Shepard described as geometric, big, and beautiful, with dense colors.
Although glass is fragile, Shepard said technicians have told him “it's not any worse than handling anything else.” And yes, it does need to be dusted. The pieces come with instructions on how to clean and dust them.
Shepard said about 160 pieces will be in the three shows.