1.5-ton chandelier beckons visitors to Chihuly exhibit

Blue Ridge Chandelier (detail), 2012, 216 x 160 x 84” Photo by Nathaniel Willson

Blue Ridge Chandelier (detail), 2012, 216 x 160 x 84” Photo by Nathaniel Willson

RICHMOND, Va. – A signature installation of the Dale Chihuly exhibition begins Oct. 5 and will feature an intricate, 3,000-pound glass chandelier visible from the museum’s main approach. Blue Ridge Chandelier will hang adjacent to the Tiffany Christ Resurrection Window. The fall exhibition, Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, opens Oct. 20.

“Although a century apart, we’re delighted to showcase two legendary glass innovators side by side,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said, “especially since this year is the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement. The chandelier, inspired by the Tiffany windows, is a spectacular example of Chihuly’s artistry, constructed from approximately 1,151 hand-blown glass elements.”

Another site-specific installation, Red Reeds, was installed in the reflecting pool in the VMFA sculpture garden in August. More than 60 feet in length, the work features 199 red reeds measuring up to 10 feet tall, interspersed among the aquatic foliage.

The Chihuly exhibition at VMFA is the artist’s third major U.S. museum exhibition in recent years. Chihuly is recognized for his ambitious architectural installations around the world, in historic cities, public museums and gardens. During the last decade 101 exhibitions in seven countries have presented artworks by the artist, which have been enjoyed by more than 10 million visitors.

Chihuly is credited with revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement and elevating the medium of glass from the realm of craft to fine art.

Educational programs will include a free family day, Celebrate the Art of Glass, on Oct. 13, as well as a lecture by glass historian William Warmus, films, studio classes, gallery talks and glassblowing demonstrations.

The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the studio art glass movement in America. Chihuly at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is among the many commemorative glass exhibitions and events that are being celebrated by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.

Fifty years ago, Harvey Littleton, an artist and son of the director of Corning Glass Works, organized the Toledo Workshops in Toledo, Ohio, and spearheaded the development of smaller furnaces and kilns that could be used by artists in their own studios. Through a series of seminars at Toledo, Littleton taught glassmaking techniques ranging from blowing and casting to engraving, polishing, etching and painting. In 1963, Littleton established a glass art program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Dale Chihuly was one of his students.

In 1969, Chihuly helped establish a glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design. Two years later, he and glassmaker Paul Marioni co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School, an experimental program begun on a tree farm in Seattle that has become a leading institution in the studio glass movement. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Chihuly taught at Wisconsin, RISD and Pilchuck.

Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will run through Feb. 10. Tickets cost $20, $16 for seniors and students with valid ID and groups of 10 or more. Free for members. The exhibition is timed for access on the half hour. To purchase, visit www.vmfa.museum/chihuly or call 804-340-1405.


Blue Ridge Chandelier (detail), 2012, 216 x 160 x 84” Photo by Nathaniel Willson

Blue Ridge Chandelier (detail), 2012, 216 x 160 x 84” Photo by Nathaniel Willson