"Imagine turning sand, the cheapest substance in the world,
If that isn't alchemy, I don't know what is."
- Dale Chihuly, artist
(from an article by Jay Dawson
© 2000 Gulfshore Life)
"During the 1% for art selection, we looked at a CHIHULY,
and we couldn't really afford it. Then Jeremy Shamos phoned
me one day and said, 'Would you like a Chihuly' I said,
"And then I was nervous because, you know, they can be
colored very dramatically. Then he brought me some photographs.
It looked absolutely perfect, with its golds and greens that
would fit in beautifully."
- Peter Lucking, lead architect
one might ask, IS A CHIHULY?
If you followed
the studio-glass movement that began in the 1960s, you're probably
surprised that the question is even being asked. You'd assume
that by now it's a matter of general knowledge that DALE
CHIHULY, the artist whose medium is glass and who made Seattle
(his home base) a world capital for glass art second only to
Murano in Venice, is the man who elevated glassblowing from
craft to fine art. And chandeliers are but one of the many manifestations
of his art. Once one sees a Chihuly chandelier, he or she will
never think of chandeliers in the usual way again.
As anyone can see, the chandelier that hangs medusa-like in
the main lobby of The Ellie is no mere light fixture. It is
a work of art, a one-of-a-kind glass sculpture that illuminates
special spaces. Certainly, it is a conversation piece. This
chandelier puts The Ellie in the privileged company of over
200 major art museums and art galleries in America and the rest
of the world which count Chihuly art pieces and installations
in their treasured collections.
So, if the city could not afford the CHIHULY, how then did THE
ELLIE get one?
The Chihuly chandelier is a joint
gift to the City of Denver (which owns and operates The Ellie
and all the theaters of the Denver Perfomjng Arts Complex) from
Susan and Jeremy Shamos
(Co-Chairs of Opera Colorado's Board of Directors) and Debi
(also a Board Director) and Jerry Tepper.
Actually the chandelier was not commissioned specifically for
The Ellie. There was no money in the budget for a Chihuly chandelier,
which could cost up to $500K by the time it is installed. But
it so happened that in the spring of 2005, there was a Chihuly
art show in nearby Colorado Springs, where one particular chandelier
caught Jeremy Shamos' fancy. Jeremy and Susan Shamos, who over
the years of collecting Chihuly art pieces had come to know
Dale Chihuly and his chief installer, were invited to see the
show before it opened. Here's Mr. Shamos' story of the Chihuly
for The Ellie (excerpted from a phone interview with FanFaire):
went down and saw the show. They had several chandeliers, and
I must say I really, really liked this one in particular. Denver
has a wonderful program called 1% for art - 1% of the budget
of any public building that goes up with public money must be
spent on art work on the site. I was a member of the commitee
that was choosing the art for the renovated auditorium. Chihuly
made a presentation but was not the successful person, but really
came in a very close second. So I know that the group really
liked Chihuly, but the city couldn't afford it because they
had bought some other pieces.
"When June came around and Susan and I saw how really beautiful
the opera house was going to be, we contacted another couple
- Debi Tepper is on the Board of Opera Colorado, and she and
her husband are old friends of ours. We had heard that they
had wanted to make an artistic contribution to the opera house,
so we invited them to come down to Colorado Springs with us
to look at the chandelier, which they did. And it happened -
not entirely by coincidence - that Dale Chihuly was going to
be there when they came down. So, they met him and he was charming
and by the end of the day, they had agreed to split the cost
of the chandelier with us.
" And we gave it to the city. I just think it's perfect
for the spot.... I love the idea of Dale Chihuly's work - his
public work looks particularly good in an opera house."
the chandeliers work for me is the massing of color. If you
take up to thousands of blown pieces of one color, put them
together, and then shoot light through them, now that's going
to be something to look at. Now you hang it in space and it
becomes mysterious, defying gravity or seemingly out of place.
Something you have never seen before." -
Which is the
way the chandelier is, and will always be, at The Ellie.
Photo credits: Semple Brown