A LOOK AT FIVE OF THE AMERICAN GLASS ARTIST’S MOST WELL-KNOWN SERIES OF WORKS
By Samantha Robinson
American artist Dale Chihuly is best known for glass sculptures and installations that have contributed to the elevation of the medium from utilitarian objects to works of art. Chihuly discovered glass at the University of Washington, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in interior design. Thereafter he studied under Harvey Littleton at the University of Wisconsin and finally at the Rhode Island School of Design, completing two master’s degrees. Chihuly was awarded a Fulbright scholarship that funded travel to Italy and study at the Venini glass factory, which later inspired him to found his own collaborative workshop – the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State.
Chihuly’s work, characterized by bright color and exuberant shapes, appears in the permanent collections of more than 200 museums worldwide. Highly recognizable and collectible, it appeals to a wide audience and performs strongly in the secondary market. Collectors of Chihuly’s work are familiar with his series, including a few highlighted below.
Chihuly’s preference for organic, sculptural forms is evident in his Baskets series, which features slightly asymmetrical, rounded, thin-walled vessels. Chihuly often produced Baskets in sets, setting smaller forms within a large vessel. Heritage’s November 7 Design auction features a three-piece Basket set in striking Paris blue with yellow lip wrap.
Seaforms build upon the foundation of the Baskets, with natural forms inspired by the sea and accented with vertical ribs and horizontal stripes. Chihuly often produced Seaforms in sets of multiple pieces and utilized the forms in numerous large-scale installations.
Chihuly’s Macchia, named for the Italian word for “spot,” are characterized by flared and undulating rims and inventive use of color. He created the kaleidoscopic, mottled effect by applying glass chips known as jimmies or frit to the exterior surface. Macchia are often large in scale, measuring up to four feet in diameter. Heritage’s November 7 Design auction features two massive Macchia, including a monumental rambler rose Macchia with maize lip wrap.
Later in his career, Chihuly began to utilize traditional forms – with a twist. The Venetians series began as a collaboration between Chihuly and fellow master glass artist Lino Tagliapietra. The pieces appear as classical vessels with exuberant applied attachments such as handles, spikes or coils.
Intrigued by a chandelier’s ability to transform a space through color and light, Chihuly began his Chandelier series in 1992. Composed of hundreds of swirled and coiled glass pieces, his chandeliers are installed prominently and proudly in some of the most influential public and private institutions in the world, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum and RISD Museum. A set of four chandeliers and a pair of rare sconces, both commissions, will be offered in Heritage’s November 7 Design auction.
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SAMANTHA ROBINSON is Director of Decorative Arts & Design in Heritage’s Chicago office. She can be reached at SamanthaR@HA.com.