Friday, June 21, 2019

Dale Chihuly And Me

I'd said I'd come back and give Chihuly a post of his own so here it is. 

We were in London in April and my cousin offered to take us to Kew to see the Chihuly exhibition.

I once had a long and sometimes traumatic relationship with Dale Chihuly. Let me explain.

About 17 years ago there was a Chihuly exhibition in Jerusalem. At the time I was working for one of the sponsors of the event. I worked from her home. One day an enormous box was delivered - a thank you gift from Chihuly himself.
The box wasn't heavy, just huge, and I was asked to unpack it.

It was filled with shredded paper and polystyrene bits. I had to dig around and eventually I found a large glass plate and eight long and twisty glass fronds with flowering glass ends. I searched and searched for the stand, or the instructions to put it together but there was no stand and no instructions. In the end I left all the pieces on the dining-room table and didn't dare throw out the box in case I'd missed a piece of priceless glass art.

On my next visit to the house I saw all the pieces artfully arranged on the table. There was no stand and no instruction sheet - you could arrange it how you liked. I largely left it alone but I was asked, as a special favour, to dust it during my visits as the cleaner was too scared to touch it. I didn't mind dusting the Chihuly and I even sometimes arranged it differently.

The trauma arose when the lady of the house had a dinner party, or any type of gathering that involved lots of food on the dining table. The Chihuly had to be moved. The only other place large enough to display it was a large window shelf half way down the staircase. Reaching it necessitated a step ladder on the half landing, bringing each piece of glass down the stairs, climbing the ladder, and arranging it whilst still on the ladder.

People who know me will confirm that I'm not a climber. Not even without carrying thousands of dollars of glass. I never had to move the Chihuly myself but as the other responsible adult in the house, I was always asked to help. I didn't sleep the night before the moving of the Chihuly, nor the night before putting it back. I was so traumatized by the whole double operation that I didn't even go to see the exhibition in Jerusalem.

Fast forward almost two decades and I jumped at the offer to go to Kew Gardens by car on a mild spring day. What could be better? I love Kew Gardens. The Chihuly - meh? I'd 'lived' with his bits of glass for long enough way back when.

Reader I was wrong. We spent about six hours walking around Kew Gardens and I could have stayed for more but for the fact that DD was tiring and we wanted to miss the London rush hour. Kew was spectacular, as always, but the Chihuly was magical. Every time we turned a corner we all three of us gasped in wonder at the sheer beauty and magnitude of the glass glittering in the sun (and sometimes rain). It was a truly cathartic experience, giving me closure on all my Chihuly trauma. Dale I forgive you and worship your amazing vision.

The exhibition is open until October I believe. I would definitely go again and again. Plan to stay all day - we didn't get to see a number of things on our list. I hope you enjoy the photos - they represent just a few of the hundreds we took. 


  1. What beautiful photos! Last time I was in Kew they had another outdoor exhibit (I know he was a very famous sculpture of modern art but I've gone blank on the name) - but - this exhibit is much more beautiful!
    We had a Chihuly exhibit here at the Royal Ontario Museum a couple of years ago and I think I went back 3 times - it was fascinating! There are a couple of places here in the city who have pieces of his art and it is on display and just so intricate. And I think the last time I was in London the V&A also had one of his "chandeliers" near the entrance. I love coloured glass of all sorts so really covet these pieces. Alas - the only thing I can afford is a 1,000 piece puzzle of one!
    As for your story about having to climb - OMG - I would have been shaking too badly to ever even lift one piece!

    1. I'm giggling about the puzzle. Everyone i my parents' generation has a piece or pieces of Venetian glass in various colours. I think it must have been a stock wedding present in the 1950s. I also remember pretty glass ash trays and dishes for putting out nuts. Nowadays no one has a bowl of nuts on the coffee table.

  2. I love Chihuly! His work at the Corelle Museum and the Seattle one are beautiful!

    1. I know, he's amazing. Thanks for stopping by.