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The so-called “Chihuly glass” refers to a glass sculpture created by American living artist and glassblower, Dale Chihuly. Chihuly first discovered the art of glassblowing when he was studying interior design at the University of Washington. He pursued his love of glassblowing at the first glass program in the country at the University of Wisconsin, the subsequently at the Rhode Island School of Design and, after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, at the Vienni factory in Venice, Italy. Chihuly established the glassblowing program at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he taught for a decade and co-founded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. His exquisite sculptures are the product of a process called glassblowing, which is considered to be an exceptionally difficult technique to master. His sculptures are usually large-scale and installation-style. His work is housed in the collections of over 200 museums worldwide. Some of his best known exhibitions include Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem held in the Tower of David Museum, which hosted more than one million visitors, and Chihuly at the V&A. 

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What is glassblowing?

Glassblowing is a technique of forming glass by inflating molten hot glass into a bubble (or parison) through a blow tube or blowpipe. The glass can be further manipulated using a hand-held torch. The technique of glassblowing was developed as a novel concept in the first century BC and has evolved to include several different methods. The more popular techniques include freeblowing, which involves the blowing of short puffs of air into a molten portion of glass, referred to as a “gather,” that is spooled at one end of the blowpipe, and mold-blowing in which a molton portion of glass on the end of the blowpipe is blown inside a wooden or metal carved mould. 

Glassblowing usually involves three furnaces. The first contains the crucible of molten glass. The second is referred to as the “glory hole,” and is used for reheating the piece between working steps. The third and final furnace is called the "lehr" or "annealer," and is used to slowly cool the glass, which can occur over a period of hours or even days. The length of cooling time depends on the size of the piece

What are the most well-known examples of Chihuly glass?

Chihuly’s works during the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s are organized into series. 

  • 1975: Navajo Blanket Series
  • 1977: Northwest Coast Basket Series
  • 1980: Seaform Series
  • 1981: Macchia Series
  • 1986: Persian Series
  • 1988: Venetian Series
  • 1989: Ikebana Series
  • 1990: Venetian Series returns
  • 1991: Niijima Floats
  • 1992: Chandeliers

Some of his best known pieces are his grandiose chandeliers, which can be found in commercial spaces all over the world. The largest collection of Chihuly glass can be found in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Chihuly’s art is also used frequently in public spaces and are often all-encompassing exhibitions. Chihuly’s Garden Cycle began at the Garfield Park in Chicago is an example of one of many exhibitions set in a botanical and outdoor setting. Chihuly is also particularly known for his large architectural installations. 

What are the most expensive pieces of Chihuly glass ever sold?

Recently, the Groninger Museum purchased an installation by Dale Chihuly that cost over $1 million. One of Chihuly’s chandeliers sold for a record-breaking $200,000 in 2015.

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