Art Review

Dale Chihuly

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center recently announced that a new wing by Denver's David Owen Tryba Architects is to be appended to the magnificent John Gaw Meem building (see story, page 43). That same day, the institution also announced the acquisition of more than fifty pieces by Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly. The purchase, costing around $1 million but worth several hundred thousand dollars more, will include many works that were seen in the Chihuly exhibit at the Fine Arts Center last year.

That show, Chihuly, surveyed the artist's illustrious career, beginning with his very first generation of vases, done in the 1970s, and ending with some brand-new, hot-from-the-furnaces chandeliers and towers. It definitely struck a chord with audiences, bringing in more than 80,000 visitors. That makes it the most successful show in the CSFAC's history.

The institution's president, Michael De Marsche, worked with Chihuly himself to select pieces from the artist's studio. "We've acquired a fair number of the pieces that were in the show," says De Marsche. "Do you remember the 'Macchia Forest'? We're getting many of those, and a number of paintings and 'Baskets.'"

The most important item in the Chihuly loot is "Orange Hornet" (above), a chandelier that looks more like a glass column. Originally created in the 1990s for Chihuly's famous installation of chandeliers suspended over the canals in Venice, "Orange Hornet" was shown in an abbreviated form in Chihuly. The piece is to be restored to its original, larger size.

The Chihuly collection is only the latest in a series of big-ticket purchases for the Fine Arts Center, so while the place is on a spending spree, I'd like to suggest a category that really needs to looked at: modernist painting from Colorado and New Mexico. The center already has a few choice examples, but if a little money were to be thrown at the field, which is seriously undervalued, an important collection could be built for much less than a million bucks. And, as with Chihuly, there's an audience for it.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia