Wednesday May 9, 2018 | by Valerie Hughes

EXHIBITION: The Toledo Museum of Art celebrates the industrial glass empire that has supported it since 1901

In 1995, when the legendary graphic designer Steff Geissbuhler was asked to re-imagine the logo of the Toledo Museum of Art, he chose a bluish-green color for his window-shaped logo that evoked the hue of float glass as a way to acknowledge the importance of industrial glassware producer Libbey Glass. The company's owner, Edward Drummond Libbey, was the founding patron of the museum, and his generous endowment made it possible to not only acquire significant paintings and sculptures that make it a top-flight art museum, but to offer free admission with no support from the city of Toledo. In 2017, another large gift from Libbey, Inc. endowed the top post at the museum, and Brian Kennedy is now known as the Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey Director. In yet another honor of its great patron, the museum has turned over its Glass Pavilion exhibition space to two centuries of its corporate patron's production, using its own extensive holdings of unusual or notable glass objects by Libbey for its current exhibition "Celebrating Libbey Glass, 1818 - 2018," which runs through November 25, 2018.

This jubilant exhibition focuses on the evolution of Libbey Inc.’s designs from its beginnings as the New England Glass Company in 1818 to today, when it is considered the largest glassware company in the world, with operations in North America and Europe. The TMA has more than 600 objects from Libbey, Inc. in its permanent collection and 140 of those, including a spun-glass dress, are on display, supplemented by additional items from private lenders dating back to the 1950s. A total of 175 objects including table and floor lamps, vases, pitchers, drinking glasses, and objects made for the World Fair are organized into three chronological chapters of the company’s history: “New England Glass Works, 1818-1888”; “Move to Toledo, 1888-1950”; and “Libbey Modern and Contemporary 1930-present.” Among the highlights is TMA’s 150-pound Libbey Punch Bowl, which was created for St. Louis World’s Fair in 1903-1904.

In an email exchange with the Glass Quarterly Hot Sheet, curator, Diane Wright, said that the exhibition “provides visitors ample opportunity to bask in the sheer beauty of objects” and that viewers “can marvel over the expertise of incredible glassmaking skills of the makers that work for Libbey.” Wright also adds that “few companies in this country, let alone glass companies, can say they are 200 years old.” She credits this accomplishment to the Edward and Florence Libbey; it is because of them that the TMA that “we know and love” exists.

Back when it was known as the New England Glass Company, Libbey Inc. was located in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the year 1880, Edward Drummond Libbey inherited full control of the company from his father and eight years later, moved it to Toledo, Ohio, where newly discovered reserves of natural gas offered a chance to lower production costs. Following the establishment of the Museum, Mr. Libbey sought to improve the skill of local craftsmen and designers by creating a model glass collection, as well as promoting training and new exhibitions.

In 1962, the Museum held a series of now-legendary workshops by Harvey Littleton that launched the Studio Glass Movement, allowing artists to understand that they do not need a large factory facility to create glass works. 

IF YOU GO:

Libbey Inc.
“Celebrating Libbey Glass: 1818-2018”
Through November 25, 2018
Toledo Museum of Art
2445 Monroe Street
Toledo, OH 43620
Tel: 419.255.8000
Website: http://www.toledomuseum.org/

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.