A Symphony of Glass - The Fall Quarterly Auction, September 2016

“As Eames has become synonymous with midcentury design, so has Chihuly in glass,” says Luke Newbold, Leland Little’s Modern and Glass Art Director.

Dale Chihuly (b. 1941) is unquestionably the greatest glass artist in America, and probably the world. The question is why. What is it about Chihuly’s work that makes him tower above the rest?

“His work has a distinct look all its own,” says Newbold, the result of Chihuly’s lifelong devotion to the art of glassblowing, which he deepened by working at the famed Venini factory on the Italian island of Murano. There he was exposed to the team approach to blowing glass, and he brought that approach back with him to the US. Newbold notes the “often paper-thin qualities” of Chihuly’s pieces, their “immediacy and fragility” contrasted against “the boldest of colors and hints of old world Venetian glass with a very modern flair.”

That immediacy and fragility are in fact the result of prodigious creative and production work. What appears free-form and capricious is in fact the result of arduous labor. As Newbold explains, “Chihuly has premeditated the design by sketching and selecting colors, hand laying any ‘drawings’ and overseeing the glass through every step, constantly discussing color, shape, size, until the product is cooled and ready for his signature. When viewing a piece of Chihuly glass, you are looking at a symphony composed by the artist and ‘performed,’ so to speak, under his direction.”

Chihuly’s “seaforms” pieces, which he began making in the eighties, show the artist at his most “fun,” as Newbold puts it—and part of the fun involves the possessor’s participation in the work’s display. “Seaforms often come in a set of several pieces,” Newbold says, “which can be nested together in an array of designs,” as is the case with the lot in our Fall auction.

In Chihuly’s seaforms, Newbold says, “the colors are bold, often with shimmering metallics which resemble light penetrating the ocean onto a deep sea creature. The edges and shapes are freeform and reminiscent of a surreal Monet.”

We are excited to offer this particular seaforms set, of deep emerald, which was made in 1990 and purchased that same year from a gallery representing Chihuly’s work—this is the work’s first time on the market since then. And it isn’t the only Chihuly currently gracing our region. Alamance Arts is exhibiting Chihuly’s work in nearby Graham at the historic Captain James and Emma Holt White House through October 15. Our auction is an excellent opportunity to own one of his iconic works of American art.