What happens if a Chihuly glass sculpture breaks at Botanical Garden?

“Chihuly in the Garden” will showcase spectacular glass art — floating in pools, suspended in air, and dotting a lush landscape with pink roses and blue and white azaleas — at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The exhibit, featuring 20 installations composed of several hundred pieces of colorful glass, opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 30.

The glass art is delicate — but strong. Still, does the glass art ever break?

Yes. Rarely, but it does happen.

In fact, the tip of one glass ray of sunshine in Dale Chihuly’s “Sol del Citron” cracked when the singular piece of glass accidentally knocked up against another piece of the glass sculpture during the recent installation.

The massive Sol del Citron features more than 1,300 pieces, with each twisted curl of glass sunshine individually wired to a steel inner structure. A crew of four people worked on this one installation weighing 5,768 pounds eight hours a day, for five days.

“We lost one ray,” Tom Lind, project manager for the Chihuly studio, which is based in Seattle, said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “One piece had a broken tip. One of about 1,300 is not too bad.”

Lind said while the glass is designed to be durable, the Chihuly team always ships extra pieces of sculptures in case pieces shatter.

That said, Lind believes that one ray is the only piece breaking during the installation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The delicate installation process at the garden lasted four weeks and required a crew of 10 workers, based in Seattle.

The Chihuly team carefully studies the natural surroundings of every outdoor exhibit, taking into consideration everything from low-lying branches to weather conditions to try to avoid any possible breakage.

Sometimes, you can’t control the elements. A couple of years ago, a hail storm pelted a Chihuly exhibit in a Dallas arboretum with golf ball-sized hail. Amazingly, only one sculpture, which includes about 30 pieces that look like lily pads, was damaged slightly. Lind said only three pieces broke.

Lind complimented the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s expansion since Chihuly’s last exhibit there in 2004.

“It’s pretty amazing what they have done here by adding the canopy walk and the neon towers,” he said. “It gives the garden a whole new look and feel. It’s a great location.”

At the Atlanta Botanical Garden, 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 having its debut this week. And an updated Children’s Garden is set to open in June.

Chihuly, the eyepatch-wearing artist who is now 74, 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.

Chihuly’s kaleidoscopic colors are being displayed throughout the grounds and include a chartreuse hornet chandelier suspended from the Canopy Walk, and, rising at one end of the Water Mirror pool nearby, is a nearly-28-foot-tall neon Saffron Tower.

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