Famed glass artist Dale Chihuly is returning to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for an encore exhibition of his spectacular works of art.
“Chihuly in the Garden,” featuring 20 installations composed of hundreds of pieces of colorful glass, is taking over the 30-acre green space beside Piedmont Park from April 30 to Oct. 30. The installation, well underway, started about two weeks ago, with a crew of 10 working every day. Those visiting the botanical garden during the coming days can witness each ray of sun and burst of color springing to life in awe-inspiring sculptures.
A 2004 outdoor art exhibition by Chihuly, an internationally acclaimed artist, sparked positive growth of many kinds at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and the Midtown attraction is set to hold what is believed to be one of the biggest outdoor shows the Seattle glass artist has ever created.
The exhibit will help mark the 40th anniversary of the garden, which doubled its footprint from 15 to 30 acres as part of an expansion completed in 2010. Enhancements to the property continue. Chef Linton Hopkins’ “plant-to-plate” restaurant is set to debut when the exhibit opens April 30.
“In some regards, Chihuly and the garden, we’ve grown up together — not together, but simultaneously,” garden President and CEO Mary Pat Matheson said. “Chihuly and his design team were relatively new to the garden exhibit world when they came here. And we were just a young garden — the Chihuly exhibit was our coming out party.”
The blockbuster event in 2004 drew a then-record 375,000 visitors, doubling garden attendance that year to 425,000 and propelling memberships to what was then an all-time high.
The eyepatch-wearing artist, now 74, appears to have more drawing power than ever.
In 2014, a Chihuly show was the main factor in the Denver Botanic Gardens attracting 1.4 million guests, making it the most-visited public garden in North America that year.
Chihuly is credited with revolutionizing the studio glass movement and elevating the perception of the glass medium from the realm of craft to fine art. He is renowned for his ambitious architectural installations around the world, in historic cities, museums and gardens. Chihuly’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Matheson said garden members and other guests never stopped asking for an Atlanta encore, which she acknowledged she pursued for about eight years.
Plans call for Chihuly’s kaleidoscopic colors to be displayed throughout grounds, including in Storza Woods, where additional gardens and connecting walkways opened last spring, and inside Fuqua Conservatory and Fuqua Orchid Center. Every Chihuly exhibit is designed to be site-specific, and three of the installations in “Chihuly in the Garden” were created uniquely for Atlanta. The works will be on view floating in pools, suspended in air, and dotting a lush landscape with pink roses and blue and white azaleas.
Highlights will include a chartreuse hornet chandelier suspended from the Canopy Walk, hovering over bright purple reeds and other plantings rising from the forest floor; and, rising at one end of the Water Mirror pool nearby, the nearly-30-foot-tall neon Saffron Tower.
The three installations created specifically for the Atlanta Botanical Garden are: “Black and Green Striped Herons With Icicle Clusters” in the Orchard Display House, “Three Graces Tower” in the Cox Courtyard, and “Fire Amber Herons” at the Sibley Fountain.
Only one of the installations in this new exhibit, “Fire Amber Herons,” was also part of the 2004 show.
The garden plans to be open five nights a week, with Chihuly’s glass bathed in light. A separate admission charge will apply (see box for more details).
“Dale Chihuly’s artwork has a beautiful organic quality to it, and the glass is colored with brilliant hues that contrast with plants in a spectacular way,” Matheson said.
“The neodymium reeds, for example, are a dazzling purple, a color created with special minerals only found in Finland. The purple contrasts with the apple and deep greens of our woodland in such a way that it mystifies and delights visitors. … I don’t know of another artist who understands light, glass and nature as well as Dale Chihuly.”
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Howard Pousner contributed to this article.