This week, The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) marks the one-year anniversary of its Contemporary Art + Design Wing, which has welcomed 460,000 visitors since opening on March 20, 2015. The 100,000-square-foot addition, fully funded by Corning Incorporated, is the world’s largest space devoted to the display and creation of contemporary art and design in glass, and features 26,000 square feet of gallery space and a 500-seat live glass demonstration facility. Designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners, the wing is home to works created since 1990 by artists who have pushed the boundaries of what is possible in glass.
“The opening of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing was a pivotal moment for the Museum,” said Dr. Karol Wight, president and executive director of CMoG. “CMoG is home to 3,500 years of glass, which provides the rare opportunity to experience the medium’s complete and complex history, appreciate its application as an artistic medium, and witness and participate in its creation all in one place. Contemporary artists are taking glass to a new scale, and our new wing allows us to showcase these monumental works in an ideal viewing atmosphere.”
In February, the Museum announced the appointment of Susie Silbert as its new curator of modern and contemporary glass. Silbert will assume the post in April and oversee future programming for the new wing’s five galleries, as well as the Ben W. Heineman Sr. Family Gallery of Contemporary Glass and the Modern Glass gallery. She will continue to expand the Museum’s collection of glass from 1900 through the present day. Silbert’s appointment follows the retirement of Tina Oldknow, who oversaw this collection from 2000–2015.
“Susie will bring invaluable insight to our modern and contemporary glass collections, through her unique curatorial vision and deep understanding of glass as a medium,” said Wight. “We look forward to the future explorations of contemporary art in glass she will inspire.”
The Contemporary Art + Design Wing offers a unique viewing experience through its design, the works on view, and its curatorial interpretation. Phifer designed curving white walls that draw the viewer’s eye through the galleries to encounter dynamic visual juxtapositions, capitalizing on the free-standing nature of the majority of the works on view. Visitors also have the rare opportunity to experience glass in natural daylight through a complex skylight system resting upon concrete beams that evenly diffuse light through the gallery space. Phifer was recently awarded the AIANY Design Award for the wing, which honors projects by members of the American Institute of Architects New York chapter.
In February, the building became LEED Silver Certified, an award created by the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognizes green building practices and design. The Museum’s certification was based on the building’s water and energy efficiency and its reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A unique feature of its sustainable design is the gallery’s lighting. Phifer’s vision of a day-lit building and the desire for energy efficiency necessitated a transition to LED lighting, which reduces the wing’s energy use for lighting by up to 76 percent. The new SORAA LED lighting provides crisp and clean light that blends seamlessly with the gallery’s natural daylighting system.
GlassApp, a web app that enables visitors to interact with the objects on view, was unveiled with the opening of the Contemporary Art + Design Wing. Featuring information on more than 70 objects, GlassApp includes videos, artist bios, label copy, and images to enhance the onsite visitor experience by highlighting current conversations in art, craft, and design. Visitors are encouraged to share their own experiences via social media posts using the hashtag #GlassApp, which are broadcast on screens in the galleries. In its first year, 56,250 users from 112 countries accessed GlassApp.
The Amphitheater Hot Shop completes the contemporary viewing experience. Set inside the renovated Steuben Glass factory building, the new hot shop features 500 seats, with a viewing balcony running its perimeter, offering visitors a 360-degree view. The space has allowed the Museum to add significant programming to its popular Hot Glass Demos, including extended shows.
With the opening of the new Amphitheater, the Museum launched the Guest Artist Series, in which artists both familiar and new to the medium are invited to use the Amphitheater as an incubator for creativity and innovation; a space in which they can use the Museum’s unparalleled resources and staff to further their work. In its first year, the Amphitheater played host to Swedish artist and designer Bertil Vallien, Pueblo potter Virgil Ortiz, metal sculptor Albert Paley, Venetian-style glassmaker James Mongrain, and Studio Glass artist Toots Zynsky. Upcoming Guest Artists include Italian maestro Lino Tagliapietra, who is widely regarded as the best living glass artist. Tagliapietra participated in the wing’s opening festivities and will return June 5 – 8. Following Tagliapietra’s work in the Hot Shop, Corning will host the 45th annual Glass Art Society conference from June 9 – 11, with many of the activities taking place at the Museum.