Klaus Moje (1936-2016) was an artist, an innovator, and a highly respected educator; he was a friend, role model, and inspiration to generations of glass enthusiasts the world over for more than 50 years. Following his death in 2016, the glass community mourned a deep loss. But Moje left behind a rich body of work collected by museums, galleries, and private collectors, and his legacy continues to influence and energize new generations of artists.
The Corning Museum of Glass has collected numerous artworks by Klaus Moje over the years, from small vessels and bowls to his larger works, like The Portland Panels: Choreographed Geometry on view in the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries. The Portland Panels are four large panels considered to be the most technically challenging of Moje’s projects—30,000 glass pieces, carefully cut, shaped, then placed into an abstract pattern and kiln-fused into large sheets. The effect is intricate and mesmerizing up close and from afar.
In 2022, the Museum and the Rakow Research Library secured a new acquisition from Moje’s estate: the Klaus Moje Papers. This substantial collection includes transparencies, prints, and slides of the artist and his work, gallery openings and artist statements, lyrics to folk songs Moje wrote, 1100 Polaroids of artwork, and 10 linear feet of Moje’s books. Now under the stewardship and preservation of the Rakow’s Archives and Special Collections staff, this vast resource will be kept safe for future study.
“The Klaus Moje acquisition was a little unique in the way it came about,” says Joe Schill, an archivist at the Rakow. “Generally, we try to establish a good relationship with an artist and let them know that the Rakow is interested in acquiring their materials. Artists often choose us based on the stellar reputation of The Corning Museum of Glass. However, it is also worth noting that the Rakow ensures that its collections are available for research and that they will be in a safe, climate-controlled environment for long-term preservation.”
In the case of the Klaus Moje Papers, Rakow staff largely communicated with art historian Nola Anderson, who was in the process of publishing Glass: The Life and Art of Klaus Moje (2021), a delightfully colorful compendium of Moje’s work (now available in The Shops). Anderson had been given access to the Klaus Moje materials by the artist’s second wife, the ceramic artist Brigitte Enders, who controlled access to Moje’s materials after the artist passed away. Negotiating with two stakeholders added complexity, but ultimately, the Rakow was able to finalize the acquisition. The materials were shipped from Australia and arrived after much anticipation a year ago in March 2022.
“Acquisition of materials from artists associated with the Studio Glass movement is particularly important because most of the people involved have either retired or passed away; very few are still actively making glass,” Schill adds. “It’s especially exciting to establish relationships with the artists themselves. Creating strategies to encourage artists to donate their materials to the Rakow is a growth opportunity for the Rakow, and a way to continue to provide access to the best research materials in the world to our glass community.”
Richard Whiteley, The Studio’s Senior Programs Manager and a longtime friend, student, and colleague of Moje, is delighted the Museum and the Rakow have undertaken the safeguarding of this vital collection. “Hearing the Klaus Moje archives have been acquired by the Museum has given me an opportunity to reflect on his legacy in glass,” Whiteley said. “It is rare for any individual to impact and transform a field as Klaus Moje has done with glass.”
“The innovation of his kiln-formed work changed the way we think about glass as a medium for creative expression,” Whiteley continued. “His studio work also led to a whole new industry of kiln-formed glass as a contemporary medium. This process is now internationally known and practiced by thousands of artists across the world. I was one of Klaus’ first students in Canberra, Australia, during the 1980s, when he established a teaching program that was unparalleled at the time. Klaus’ teaching program created a wave of innovation in the field that is still felt today. He built a community of students that was self-determined and accountable. In his teaching program, there were few set assignments and we needed to define our own goals as undergraduates. He encouraged us to experiment with ideas and explore the material endlessly. Klaus taught us about the art world and to see ourselves within that landscape, via marathon slide lectures. He taught us to dedicate ourselves to our practice and this remains one of the most important legacies within teaching.”
The Rakow Research Library is open from 10am – 4pm, Monday – Thursday, by appointment only. The Library’s Plan Your Visit Guide provides information on making an appointment, requesting materials, and consulting with reference staff. All are welcome to also connect with the Library virtually through Ask a Glass Question or by scheduling an online research consultation with a librarian.