Dale Chihuly Glass: Art or Decoration?
If you bring up the work of Dale Chihuly at a cocktail party, you are bound to be met with energetic praise from his devoted followers or pained looks and eye rolls from his critics. I have found that people either love or hate the intricate, multi-colored blown glass and have yet to meet someone who has no opinion on the matter.
The love/hate debate over Dale Chihuly is timely because of his current show at San Francisco’s de Young museum. Kenneth Baker launched a scathing review of the show in The San Francisco Chronicle and David Littlejohn also attacked Chihuly’s work in The Wall Street Journal. Baker’s review generated so much controversy that he felt compelled to write a follow up piece defending his review.
I am interested in what ArtsÉtoile readers think of Dale Chihuly’s work. Do you love it or hate it? Do you think his work is art or mere decoration? What do you think of de Young museum director, John Buchanan’s statement that Chihuly is “the world’s greatest living artist?” I have included citations from Baker and Littlejohn’s articles on Chihuly in order to get the dialogue going.
Baker on Chihuly:
“Educated viewers cannot look for long at Chihuly’s work without wishing there were something to think about. So they think about something else. The capacity to hold our attention, in the moment or in reflection later, is a mark of significant art in an era when mass media work hard to abbreviate attention spans so as to cut costs and decapitate questions. The history of art is a history of ideas, not just of valuable property. Chihuly has no place in it, and the de Young disserves its public by pretending that he does.”
Littlejohn on Chihuly:
“The word most commonly used by Chihuly-fanciers to describe the works is “beautiful,” a concept of little value in defining serious art after the Impressionists. Although some Chihuly objects appear snakelike or surreal, there is never anything troubling or challenging about them. It all looks strangely safe and escapist, even Disney-like, for art of our time. The writhing shapes and bright kaleidoscope of colors signify nothing but the undeniable skill of their crafters and the strange tastes of Mr. Chihuly…Kenneth Baker, art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, outraged the glass man’s admirers (and no doubt some interior decorators) by dismissing him as an interior decorator. I wouldn’t go that far. Team Chihuly decorates exterior spaces as well.”
Filed under: art criticism, museums, San Francisco, sculpture | 50 Comments
Tags: Bellagio, Dale Chihuly, de Young, Fiori di Como, handblown glass, John Buchanan