Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Presents 'Chihuly," a Canadian Exclusive Featuring the Glass Art of Dale Chihuly

Dale Chihuly, Mille Fiori (detail)
Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington, 2012
Photo by Sue Frause
American glass artist Dale Chihuly has taken his work across the border to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for a four-month run. The Canadian exclusive exhibition, simply titled Chihuly, opened June 8 and runs through October 20, 2013. Chihuly was invited by MMFA's Director and Chief Curator Nathalie Bondil to assemble an exhibition of glass sculptures specifically designed for the Museum's interior architecture. The pieces are displayed in the galleries of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion.

The exhibition follows the successful Louise Comfort Tiffany: A Passion for Colour exhibit in 2009. Two years later, the MMFA reinstalled its collection of design and studio glass during the Museum's expansion. Bondil sees Chihuly as an ideal follow-up: "No other artist has wrestled so mightily with glass; these works have to be seen to be believed."

Chihuly, an acknowledged master of site-specific installations, measured the various galleries of the Museum's pavilion to create a unique layout. It consists of eight immersive environments, four designed specifically for the Museum. Some of the pieces are placed alone, while others are in groups along the galleries. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Sun - Located in the city's public space on Sherbrooke Street, the round tower is five meters in diameter, emitting rays composed of tendrils in primary colors.
  • Turquoise Reeds - A vast, idyllic forest with dozens of spear-shaped forms springing from trunks of salvaged old growth Western Red Cedars. 
  • Persian Ceiling - A multitude of overhead shapes, forms and vivid colors arranged in layers over plates of transparent glass. Maybe lie on the floor to truly appreciate this Persian carpet!
  • Chandeliers and Towers - A combination of blown glass with steel frameworks, with five chandeliers and one tower displayed in a single gallery.
  • The 'Boats' - Horns of plenty on the reflecting surface of a rostrum. The spherical shape are an allusion to the glass floats used by Japanese fishermen, some of which Chihuly found while beachcombing as a child in Puget Sound, Washington.
  • Macchia Forest - Sculptural bowls characterized with undulating sides and rims, the result of gravity, and by their large formats. They're assembled on slender steel pedestals.
Chihuly also created four special installations for MMFA: 

  • Persian Colonnade - Colorful flowers arranged rhythmically on a wood framework that adorns the peristyle colonnade at the head of the Hornstein pavilion's staircase.
  • Ruby Pineapple - A lost chandelier made anew for the MMFA. The original chandelier was on a ship from France to Seattle  that was hit by a storm, with one of the containers falling overboard -- taking the work with it. Fifteen years later, Chihuly recreated it for the MMFA.
  • Mille Fiori - Created specifically for the MMFA, this is part of Chihuly's Fiori series introduced in 2003. An enchanted garden of shapes from nature including reeds and herons.
  • Glass Forest #6 - Fluorescent structures made of blown white glass filled with argon gas and neon, producing shades of pink. 
Chihuly Garden and Glass | Seattle, Washington | In May 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass opened on the grounds of Seattle Center. It's a fitting locale for the artist who was born in nearby Tacoma and graduated from the University of Washington. Read my review of the new venue, which also includes a slideshow of my photos.
Here's a piece in The (Montreal) Gazette about the exhibition: Studio glass pioneer exhibits at MMFA (A rare breed of abstract artist, Dave Chihuly’s work has both commercial and popular traction)


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