Peabody Essex Museum welcomes gift of art glass

Selection of works by Harvey Littleton, Toots Zynsky and James Watkins in the New York home of Betty and Carl Pforzheimer, 2021. Photo by Sarah Chasse.

Selection of works by Harvey Littleton, Toots Zynsky and James Watkins in the New York home of Betty and Carl Pforzheimer, 2021. Photo by Sarah Chasse.

SALEM, Mass. — The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has received a gift of the glass collection of the New York-based philanthropists Betty and Carl Pforzheimer. The Carl and Betty Pforzheimer collection contains more than 200 works of international studio glass and 40 pieces of historic European and American glass.

This acquisition significantly expands PEM’s noted historic glass collection while celebrating the extraordinary aesthetic possibilities that the combination of sand and fire achieves. Selections from this collection, which is remarkable for the diversity of form, scale and technique, will go on view in PEM’s Native American and American Art galleries in the coming year. In 2024, the collection will be featured in the new Pforzheimer Gallery.

 Nancy Callan, ‘Melon Droplet,’ 2019. Blown and etched glass. Gift of Carl and Betty Pforzheimer. 2022.6.18. Courtesy of the artist. Photo © Russell Johnson.


Nancy Callan, ‘Melon Droplet,’ 2019. Blown and etched glass. Gift of Carl and Betty Pforzheimer. 2022.6.18. Courtesy of the artist. Photo © Russell Johnson.

“Betty and Carl Pforzheimer have assembled an astounding collection, featuring the work of more than 90 artists, many of whom will be represented in PEM’s collection for the first time,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo executive director and CEO. “The Pforzheimers’ generous donation of works and companion funding establishes PEM as an important destination for experiencing this remarkable medium and also assures the long-term accessibility, care and scholarship of the Pforzheimer collection for generations to come.”

The first glass work that the Pforzheimers collected was Cattail Swamp, a Mark Peiser paperweight vase made in 1979. The couple had stepped into the Contemporary Art Glass Gallery, dealer Doug Heller’s first gallery in New York, and purchased the vase on the spot. This was the beginning of their appreciation of the emerging art glass movement. To further their knowledge, the Pforzheimers worked closely with the Heller Gallery and other dealers in the years that followed. Carl Pforzheimer even trained in the art of glassblowing at UrbanGlass in New York to understand how the complex and delicate pieces are made.

Lino Tagliapietra, ‘Florencia,’ 2019. Blown glass. 2022.6.190.1-3. Gift of Carl and Betty Pforzheimer. Courtesy of the artist. Photo © Russell Johnson.

Lino Tagliapietra, ‘Florencia,’ 2019. Blown glass. 2022.6.190.1-3. Gift of Carl and Betty Pforzheimer. Courtesy of the artist. Photo © Russell Johnson.

Today, the collection has grown to feature many notable works, including more than 40 by the Italian-born international glass master Lino Tagliapietra. The range of Tagliapietra’s work represented in this collection is superlative and enhanced by the deep ongoing friendship between the couple and the artist and his family.

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