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Thursday June 23, 2016 | by Malcolm Morano

OPENING: Opulent Dale Chihuly installations take over at The Royal Ontario Museum

FILED UNDER: Architecture, Museums, Opening

Opening this Saturday, and on view for six months, the Royal Ontario Museum's "CHIHULY" exhibition features 11 installations by the most-famous artist working in glass. Among the works on display is the popular Persian Ceiling, which puts viewers underneath a glass-plate layered with Chihuly’s vividly colored Persian rondels. Also on view is Laguna Torcello, a vibrant, lagoon-inspired garden of glass objects. The artist has also created a new work specifically for the exhibition, Persian Trellis — an arbor adorned with Persian rondels, inviting viewers to not only walk under, but through the colorful light-gathering works.

Although many of the installations have been on display elsewhere — at art museums in Montreal, Richmond, and Boston — Diane Charbonneau, the Royal Ontario Museum’s guest curator for the exhibit, tells the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet that, “for Chihuly, it’s always a unique show.” Charbonneau, who is the curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, described the artist’s process of visiting the gallery space two — sometimes three — times before proposing the works he’s selected for the location. Even the same installations will vary from show to show. “You must remember, we’re not talking about one sculpture where you put it on a pedestal and that’s it; we’re talking about installing works that are heavy and complex,” Charbonneau said in a telephone interview with the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet. “They have to work with engineers to see if the floor can take so much weight. For instance, the Icicle Chandeliers and Towers here are smaller than in Montreal because they don’t have as much height to work with.”

This site sensitivity may well have led Chihuly to create an additional icicle tower for this exhibition. The Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal Building, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, is a very specific space, characterized by sharp obtuse and acute angles that harken to the crystal collection housed inside its walls. Charbonneau says “the Icicle Chandeliers and Towers respond perfectly to that angular shape.” Chihuly has expressed a similar excitement, saying in a prepared statement that, “having been on-site at the museum, I’m really looking forward to presenting my work in this uniquely designed space.”

“Chihuly always has great people to work with, he has surrounded himself with a team who all have their specialties, from the people who blow his glass to the lighting specialist and engineers,” Charbonneau says. “That sense of sharing and collaboration [that characterizes his work] extends to sharing with visitors.”

The artist will do so in person on the day of the show’s opening with a public book signing event from 11am to noon.


Dale Chihuly
June 25th, 2016 — January 2nd, 2017
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queens Park
Toronto, ON M5S
Tel: 416.586.8000

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 more than 40 years.