The installation in our new North Wing gallery building will be spectacular – the world’s largest space dedicated to the display of contemporary art and design in glass. The contemporary art galleries will feature more than 70 works from the Museum’s permanent collection, including recent acquisitions and large-scale works that have never before been on view due to space restrictions in the current contemporary glass gallery. The design gallery will showcase functional objects, including furniture and lighting.
The Museum’s new contemporary gallery building is on target to be completed by end of year and we will begin installing our objects in the galleries once the building is complete. We are privileged to be the caretakers of the world’s most important collection of glass, so we want to make sure we give ourselves time to do this appropriately. As a result, we have chosen to update our opening date to March 20, 2015, around the start of spring, the vernal equinox, which gives us much opportunity to celebrate light as befits the building and the collection.
So, what will visitors see when we open? Here’s a look at the curatorial plan for the installation.
Visitors approach the new galleries through a long walkway that presents the idea of glass as a material for contemporary art with large-scale works. A major highlight is Klaus Moje’s Choreographed Geometry (2007), a four panel painting composed of more than 22,000 hand-cut strips of glass that have been heat-fused together. Another highlight is Ann Gardner’s suspended sculpture, Fog (2007), in which hanging mosaic-covered pods in grays and whites imitate the atmospheric condition of clouds that are opaque one moment and translucent the next.
From the large walkway, visitors enter the new galleries, which are thematically curated. The first gallery is about Nature, and is dedicated to sculptures that refer to the natural world. The gallery features a range of objects from biomorphic forms to works, such as the sculptures by Anne and Patrick Poirier and Debora Moore that are inspired by the famous glass flowers made for Harvard University by the 19th-century Bohemian glassmakers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. Some artists, such as Michael Rogers and Marta Klonowska, use the animal as metaphor; while others, such as Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, consider a simple bowl of fruit. The gallery is anchored by Katherine Gray’s Forest Glass (2009), an installation of thousands of reclaimed green, colorless, and brown drinking glasses arranged on shelves to suggest a stand of three trees. Inspired by the process of creating glass, which historically required the burning of timber to power the furnaces, Gray questions the impact of glassmaking on the environment in the past and present.
The next gallery focuses on Body. Featuring works inspired by the human body, this gallery is anchored by Evening Dress with Shawl (2004) by Karen LaMonte, a haunting evocation of the beauty of classical statuary. Nancy Bowen and Ann Wolff consider the complexities of the body and psyche. A suite of sculptures by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová represent abstraction developed from the proportions of the body. Imprint of an Angel II (1999) is an abstract shape based on a man’s shoulders and chest, its mysterious interior space representing the inner light, or the divine part of man. The gallery also considers narrative. The abstract forms of Endeavor (2004) by Lino Tagliapietra were inspired by the boats that gather in the Venetian lagoon for the annual Festa della Sensa.
The artworks in the gallery focused on History and Material reflect reflect the manipulation of traditional forms in glass and focus on its material properties. Untitled (White) (2000) by Josiah McElheny, Material Culture (2008) by Beth Lipman, and Blood Sugar (1992) by Tony Cragg reference and recontextualize functional vessels so that we understand them in new ways. Installations by Cerith Wyn Evans, Evening (2008–2013), and Javier Pérez, Carroña (2011), exploit the beauty and drama of Venetian chandeliers, creating statements very different from that of functional lighting fixtures. The unique properties of glass—its transparency and opacity, reflectivity, optical effects, and ability to hold color and scatter light—are explored in sculptures by Jun Kaneko, Michael Scheiner, Nicole Chesney, and Marian Karel.
A Contemporary Design gallery will be devoted to international design from the past 25 years and feature a range of functional glass vessels, furniture, lighting, and design art. Highlights include the Etruscan Chair by Danny Lane (1992), Coffee Pot (2011) by Studio Job and Triscosta Cabinet (2013) by Christophe Côme, as well as lighting that is both design and art by Tejo Remy and René Veenhuizen, Maria Grazia Rosin, and Dan Dailey. The gallery also focuses on the role that GlassLab—a pioneering collaboration between international designers and master glassmakers from The Corning Museum of Glass—plays at the forefront of new glass design by presenting a selection of prototypes created over the past seven years.
The new galleries also feature a gallery dedicated to special temporary projects including large-scale installations. The inaugural installation of the space spotlights the recent acquisition Constellation (1996) by Kiki Smith. The room-sized installation, a meditation on the infinity of space and the human desire to understand it, brings the heavens to earth. Twenty-six hot-sculpted glass animals of different sizes represent different animal-themed star patterns. Designed by Smith after a 19th-century celestial atlas and produced by Venetian maestro Pino Signoretto, the animals cavort amidst cast-glass stars and their own cast-bronze scat on a night sky made of handmade indigo-dyed Nepal paper.
As visitors walk along the Porch, the display area around the themed galleries which overlooks the Museum’s new one-acre green, they will encounter a selection of large-scale artworks, such as North Sea Waves (2008) by Zora Palová and Circular Object One (2003), by Daniel Clayman, which reference water and light, or The White Necklace (2007), a strand of gigantic beads by Jean-Michel Othoniel. From the Porch, visitors may access the galleries at several points, or they may rest and connect with the outdoors through the 150 foot-long window that opens onto the Museum’s green and view of one of the original buildings of the Corning Incorporated complex that was built in 1951 and designed by New York architects Harrison & Abramowitz.