Chihuly at the MAC

The Spokane museum of arts and culture brought glass art by Dale Chihuly to its galleries.

A glass studio exhibition featuring works by world-renowned Dale Chihuly is open at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC). 

“Luminous: Dale Chihuly and the Studio Glass Movement” presents the studio glass movement that is prominent in the Pacific Northwest. This first all-glass exhibit at the MAC will be open until June 23.

The MAC partnered with the Tacoma Art Museum and Portland-based collector George Stroemple, to feature 33 international artists including nine pieces by Dale Chihuly. 

Chihuly is from Tacoma, WA. He was introduced to glass art while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1928, he pursued his artistic talent in Venice, Italy. 

“There is a very short list of contemporary artists that have the sort of popularity Chihuly has,” Jundt curator Paul Manoguerra said. 

A standout within the collection is “Laguna Murano Chandelier,” a piece by Chihuly that was inspired by his trip to Venice in the late ’90s. While working with old glass blowing families on the island of Murano, the city of Venice commissioned Chihuly to create outdoor pieces for the streets of Venice. 

“The Laguna Murano” is a striking piece that contains five distinct amber-colored components, with two hanging from the ceiling and three installed on the floor. The entire piece takes up 1,000 square feet.

Also on display is Chihuly’s colorful “Macchia” series, including seven objects that combined showcase 300 different colors. The word “macchia” means “spot” in Italian. 

Chihuly’s artwork also shares history with Gonzaga’s Jundt Museum. The octagonal shaped room in Jundt that overlooks the Spokane river and Centennial trail was designed specifically to host ‘Chihuly’s Gonzaga Red Chandelier’ in 1995. The very first exhibition at Jundt was works by Chihuly. 

The chandelier and other Chihuly pieces were provided by Jim and Joanne Jundt and the Kennedy family, who were already collectors of his art and had a relationship with him. The Jundt collection features 44 additional Chihuly pieces, including some drawings and acrylic paintings. 

“There are people that come to Spokane just to see the ‘Gonzaga Red Chandelier.’ They have some kind of Chihuly bucket list that they are checking off and they see Chihulys everywhere they go,” Manoguerra said. 

But Jundt is much smaller than the MAC, which was able to turn its largest gallery to glass art. Glass is a unique sculpture material that can be used for a wide variety of visuals. “Luminous” features a large range of artwork, from traditional glass objects such as bowls and plates to striking abstract sculptures.

“This work is a snapshot of what is happening in the world of glass art right now and if people come to the exhibition they will leave, I think, with the sense that artists are coming out of this medium with a lot of different approaches,” director of the MAC, Wesley Jessup said. 

The MAC is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 or $8 with a college ID.

Cara Konowalchuk is a staff writer.

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