The Chihuly Garden and Glass, a permanent, museum-sized attraction in the shadow of Seattle’s Space Needle, is opening this week to considerable fanfare. Though welcomed by some as a characteristically eye-catching Dale Chihuly project, and tied to collective hopes of revitalizing the downtown district and attracting tourists, many have derided it as a vanity project, pointing to the fact that the Garden is a for-profit institution with no curator that will take up space that might otherwise be dedicated to city parkland for public use. The real whipping boy, however, has been Chihuly himself, an artist whose showmanship and relentless self-promotion have brought him more than his share of invective and verbal pies-in-the-face. Some of our favorites, after the jump.
“It’s terrible. The Bridge of Glass is terrible. And I never wrote about it when I was in Tacoma because I was worried that someone would try to kill me. It has completely revolutionized downtown Tacoma, but as art it is a complete failure.” Jen Graves, “Dale Chihuly Makes His Own Weather,” Seattle Stranger, February 16, 2006.
“The exhibition is about as critically limp as a museum can get, failing to provide any context or history to the artist’s work and instead content to simply show the work as is, an amusement-park glass menagerie that too often looks like a 5 year old’s acid trip.” Kyle Chayka, “Dale Chihuly Mounts World’s Biggest Bong Retrospective,” Hyperallergic, June 14, 2011.
“My God that’s pathetic. That atrium with a God damned Dale Chihuly in it. Oh my God. That’s supposed to be great? That’s one of the worst museum expansion spaces I’ve ever seen. That atrium is horrible. It’s a waste of space. An energy drain. An embarrassment. Physically it’s an embarrassing space.” David A. Ross, describing the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in an interview on Berkshire Fine Arts, November 18, 2011.
“I never claimed Chihuly isn’t an artist. I wrote that he isn’t a great glass artist, and he isn’t. I called him a glass celebrity. I should have added that he is a mediocre installation artist.” Jen Graves, “Oh No She Di’in’tz” Seattle Stranger, April 20, 2006.
“Seeing yet another generic Chihuly glass sculpture that one of his assistants crafted induces the same gag factor that you get listening to a Kenny G Christmas album. ‘Real Seattleites’ hate Chihuly.” Don Ward, “Glass Museum Honoring Living Legend Dale Chihuly Approved for Seattle Center,” Seattle Weekly, December 15, 2010.
“I went into a college library and saw a massive Chihuly chandelier hanging — totally out of place — in an atrium that showcased portraits and artifacts of the Dalai Lama. Comparatively it was gaudy, excessive and, well, it triggered a dry heave.” Jamie Laughlin, “Visit Dallas, Dale Chihuly, But Please Leave With Your Toys,” Dallas Observer, January 31, 2012.
“Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly.” Bryan Rubino, former studio assistant and defendant in a 2006 lawsuit over copyright and trademark infringement.
“I haven’t many awards. Ugly ones like what I got in Seattle, Dale Chihuly’s strange-looking glass thing, are in my cupboard.” Gary Oldman, quoted in Cindy Adams “Happy to be Chosen,” New York Post, February 13, 2012.
“I have no quibbles with Chihuly’s factory-style operation, his terrific rate of production, or his immense popularity. None at all. Nor am I bothered by the general absence of ideas in his work: I am all in favor of senseless beauty, and would prefer it any day to most of the brittle, air-filled intellectual meringue that goes by the description of conceptual art. It’s the works themselves that I find so off-putting. And again and again I find the problem with them is that they are tasteless.” Sebastian Smee, “Dale Chihuly Exhibit at MFA Is a Glass Spectacular,” Boston Globe, April 8, 2011.
“A few weeks ago, in a bout of his usual ribbing, [Jim Higgins] asked me who I loathed more, Dale Chihuly or Thomas Kinkade. I bristled at the question. How to choose? Like a lot of art critics, I dislike them both immensely, though I take less pleasure in calling their work garish, gushing, sentimental schlock than some, even if I believe that to be utterly the truth.” Mary Louise Schumacher, “Thomas Kinkade, inspiring hate among critics,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 10, 2012.
— Reid Singer