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 Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew

Supported by GlaxoSmithKline
28 May 2005 – 15 January 2006

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is hosting a major visual arts exhibition set to challenge the traditional perception of Kew and rival the established arts spaces in terms of scale and innovation. Investigating the boundaries and interaction between art and landscape, Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew, supported by GlaxoSmithKline, utilises Kew’s unique landscape within the city to display a variety of work from American artist Dale Chihuly and marks the first time that he has exhibited in a European garden setting. One of the guiding principles for Kew is to create an exhibition that will organically evolve for the viewer with the changing seasons and the lengthening and shortening of the days throughout the year until the exhibition’s close in early 2006.

Dale Chihuly is a leading figure of contemporary glass and has exhibited extensively in the United States as well as internationally – from Venice to Jerusalem, Iceland to Japan. Chihuly’s work was last seen by the British public at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the summer of 2001.

Gardens of Glass will include Chihuly’s newest series of work, Fiori, which has never been exhibited in Europe before. Site-specific works have been created for the Palm House and Temperate House and a traditional Thames skiff will be used to hold the glass for the Boat installation on the Palm House pond. The exhibition will also include some of Chihuly’s best-loved series of work, including Macchia, Ikebana and Chandeliers.

The monumental sculptures are formed out of hundreds of pieces of hand-blown glass and assembled on site. The installation of these pieces is a unique spectacle in itself, with hundreds of glass elements assembled into their final form. Please contact the Kew Gardens Press Office for an opportunity to photograph the installation process in early May 2005.

Making works that interact with their setting is thematic in Chihuly’s work. The Boat installation is part of a series that originates from an event in Finland in which glass forms were floated down a river. This perhaps opens up the discussion into the material value and permanence of art for critics and viewers.

The White Peaks Exhibition Space will host an exhibition investigating Chihuly’s working practices and the process of glass blowing. Chihuly is well known for playing loud rock music in the hothouse during a session of glass blowing, bringing in elements of performance and conceptual art with the uninitiated being mesmerised by the speed and energy of the blowers that permeates through into the finished sculpture.

The processes of Chihuly’s work, both theoretical and practical, together with discussions into the role that Kew’s landscape will play within the perception of the sculptures as well as the history of glass and Chihuly’s role within it will be the basis of an educational programme for adults and children, including a series of lectures and workshops.

Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew is set to transform the experience of visiting the gardens, offering a new context to those familiar with the work of Chihuly and a comprehensive introduction to the artist’s work and influential career out of the confines of the indoor gallery space and into the landscapes and vistas of Kew.


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