CHIHULY: spectacular glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly at the ROM

Sunday, June 26th, 2016. Filed under: Art Toronto

“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way that they’ve never experienced.” – Dale Chihuly

Ikebana boat Chihuly

Ikebana Boat, 2006, Dale Chihuly. Wooden boat and blown glass.

Opening this weekend at the Royal Ontario Museum, the first major exhibition in Toronto of spectacular glass sculpture by American master Dale Chihuly. CHIHULY at the ROM features new and early works in eleven installations designed specifically for the ROM’s architectural space, an experience that immerses visitors in color, light, and wonder.

Float Boat Chihuly

Float Boat, 2014, Dale Chihuly.

It was a delight to see Dale Chihuly himself at the ROM media preview held Friday, June 24. The artist expressed his pleasure at being in Toronto and grinned broadly when the audience cheered the arrival of Chihuly colour in Toronto during introductions.

Massive, fragile, incredibly intricate–just getting the pieces here was a monumental feat. Chihuly Studio shipped six 53-foot containers from Tacoma, Washington, to Toronto, where the works were reassembled. Persian Ceiling (2012) alone consists of 1,000 glass elements. Laguna Torcello (2012) is 52 feet long, an intricate glass garden comprised of 2,672 elements.

Laguna Torcello Chihuly ROM

Laguna Torcello (2012) is part of Chihuly’s Mille Fiori series and pays respect to Venice and the city’s glass makers.

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly has been exploring glass as a medium for over 50 years. In 1968, he went to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice where he observed the centuries-old team approach to glass blowing.  Teamwork is critical to the way Chihuly works today, enabling the production of the massive works produced by Chihuly Studio.

Laguna Torcello Detail Blue

Detail, Luguna Torcello (2012) installation at the ROM.

Visitors enter the ROM exhibition through a dreamlike display of two Chihuly boats spilling over with lustrous glass objects, reflected on black Plexiglass surfaces that imitate water at night.

The next room reveals Laguna Torcello (2012), an elaborate 52-foot-long sea garden inspired by Chihuly’s love of Venice. I was intrigued to learn that Chihuly’s favorite place in the world is the island of Torcello, an island in the Venetian lagoon.  I visited Torcello the last time I was in Italy and was enthralled to explore the installation’s complex, organic forms.

Fire Orange Baskets Red Reeds

Fire Orange Baskets (foreground) and Red Reeds on Logs (background) installed in the Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall, ROM.

Chihuly works in series: Cylinders and Baskets (begun in the 1970s), Seaforms, Macchia, Venetians and Persians (1980s), Niijima Floats and Chandeliers (1990s) and Fiori (2000s). His work is included in more than 200 museum collections around the world (including the Met, the Victoria and Albert, the Corning Museum of Glass). Chihuly chandeliers and sculptures may have caught your eye at casinos and hotels around the world. In Toronto, the Soho Metropolitan hotel has a Persian ceiling over its entrance.

Persian Ceiling ROM Installation

Beanbags on the floor in the ROM exhibition allow visitors to lie back and enjoy all the detail of Persian Ceiling (2012).


Persian Ceiling detail

Persian Ceiling, 2012, is comprised of more than one thousand glass elements which are never installed the same way twice.

The organic forms produced by Chihuly Studio are particularly suited for installation in botanical gardens and other ambitious outdoor installations worldwide. For Chihuly Over Venice (1995), sculptures were created at glass factories in Finland, Ireland and Mexico, then installed over the canals and piazzas of Venice. More than a million visitors viewed Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem (1999).

Chihuly Tower Blue

The ROM show features several Chihuly chandeliers and towers inspired by icicles.

Persian Vertical

CHIHULY at the ROM is an extraordinary opportunity for visitors of all ages to experience the magic and imagination of this American master. Photography in the exhibition is encouraged, and giving children a camera to take pictures with will allow them to be engaged without touching the fragile pieces.

CHIHULY is at the ROM until January 8, 2017.  For information on tickets and related programming, see the ROM website.  Best Value Fridays offers special admission prices to CHIHULY and other ROM exhibitions between 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm on Fridays.  CHIHULY related programs for visitors of all ages include talks, tours, Family Funday (September 18), an adult sleepover (September 23) and New Year’s Eve CHIHULY finale party (December 31) with a spectacular balloon drop inspired by Persian Ceiling.

Persian Trellis

Persian Trellis, 2016, is a new work by Dale Chihuly created just for the ROM exhibition.


Related posts:

Culture Tripper visits the Chihuly Collection museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, a hotbed of hot glass production.

Culture Tripper discovers atmospheric Torcello in the Venetian lagoon in Lagoon Dreams: Venice, Burano and Torcello.






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