Opening at the National Gallery on 24 September, and coinciding with Floriade, Australia's spring festival of flowers, Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass is the first of the Gallery's forthcoming series of spectacular exhibitions which run until 26 January 2000, collectively titled Masterworks.*  
Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass is a brilliant survey of Dale Chihuly's artistic practice as well as the showcase for new work made for Canberra - pieces with such titles as Three Australian magpies resting in a tree; Putti with Major Mitchell's cockatoo, Putti perched in a tree with opalescent kingfisher.

The Exhibition Galleries will be transformed into an exotic world of luminous colour with some 63 works which comprise Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass - individual pieces, series of objects, installations and 'environments' that are at once conceptually unique art objects and intense sensory experiences. Chihuly has also incorporated in his exhibition plan an architectural feature of the Exhibition Galleries: the large windows which look out over the Fiona Hall garden will be filled with a wall of 'stained glass' - an exciting two-dimensional 'drawing wall' of 42 acrylic on plexiglass panels - made especially for this space.

Dale Chihuly's long and distinguished involvement with glass began in the early 1960s at the University of Wisconsin and the Rhode Island School of Design. After being awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant as well as a Fulbright Fellowship, he travelled to Europe in 1968. He became the first American glassblower to work in the prestigious Venini factory on the island of Murano, Venice. In 1971 he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, which has had a major impact on contemporary glass and attitudes to glass in America. The list of his museum exhibitions is long and encompasses the world; likewise the list of his work in museum and public collections and his architectural installations.

Chihuly promotes the studio concept of glassblowing - a collaborative approach, which is the philosophy at Pilchuck. The emphasis that Chihuly places on teamwork has often been explained as a direct, and necessary response to the physical damage sustained as a result of a car accident in 1976. His experience of Italian glass production at the Venini factory, however, was of paramount importance in developing this approach.

Chihuly returned to Venice in 1996 and, with his team, installed his trademark Chandeliers in 14 sites across the city. Chihuly over Venice was followed this year by Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000, which comprises 15 major installations throughout the entire Citadel. Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass continues this idea of engaging with the city - as well as presenting National Gallery audiences with a powerful aesthetic and sensory experience, Chihuly and his team are creating virtuoso installations which form the artistic centrepiece of the Floriade display in Canberra.

Chihuly himself will take part in the events planned around Chihuly: Masterworks in Glass which include lectures, tours, demonstrations and drawing workshops for children.

The ultimate point of Chihuly's glass sculptures is to embody and convey ecstasy. ('Delirious Glass: Dale Chihuly's Sculpture', 1997, Donald Kuspit, Professor of Art History, State University of New York)

Dates: 24 Sep 1999 - 26 Jan 2000
Floriade 18 Sep - 17 Oct 1999

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