Paul Curates: Chihuly At Albemarle Street

To mark this year’s Frieze Fair in London, Paul has curated a selection of his close friend Dale Chihuly’s Studio Edition glass sculptures and prints in a special, exclusive exhibition at the Paul Smith flagship shop in Mayfair.

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Friendships come in all shapes and sizes. Some, for example, are based on a similar sense of humour; others on mutual hobbies or interests. For celebrated American artist Chihuly, known for his vibrant, awe-inspiring glass sculptures and Paul Smith, it began when they bonded over a shared love of collecting and curiosity. “From the beginning, we had so much in common and just felt completely at ease in each other’s company,” Paul explains.

The friendship started when the duo met after Chihuly and Leslie Jackson Chihuly, who serves as the president and chief executive officer of Chihuly Studio, visited Paul’s Albemarle Street store in Mayfair for a spot of shopping. An invitation to Paul’s office and HQ quickly followed, and there, they got to talking about their impulse to collect everything from matchboxes and art to books and bikes.

A partnership seemed like a natural evolution, but it was Leslie, however, who first suggested embarking on the project of an exhibition. “When Leslie suggested this concept of creating conversation between my work and Paul’s, I was excited by the prospect of showing my work in his shop, surrounded by his curated environments,” Chihuly explains. Exhibited in the Albemarle shop where the journey of their friendship first began, Paul Curates: Chihuly At Albemarle Street marks London’s 2022 Frieze Fair and features a selection of 10 glass sculptures, and 10 fine art prints (including four artist’s proofs), all hand-picked by Paul himself to complement the space.

Featuring selected pieces from the Chihuly Studio Editions collection, smaller works based on Chihuly’s iconic series in glass, the exhibition is striking, dynamic and, above all, vibrant. “I wanted this exhibition to reflect our joint love of colour, serving as a showcase of the artist’s one-of-a-kind talent and vision.” Paul says. “The pieces are mind-blowing.”

Aurora Macchia

Just as Paul’s collections are representative of his unique approach to colour, Chihuly’s Macchia series exemplifies his unexpected way with color, light and form. As Henry Geldzahler, a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, put it: “You see color as you’ve never seen it before, as if color itself were floating in the air. It is an elevating experience.” The asymmetrical Aurora Macchia combines rich cerulean blue, coral red, sunshine yellow and lapis blue so it appears almost luminous.

Big Chill

Characteristically expressive and dynamic, the Big Chill serigraph takes its cue from Chihuly’s Glass On Glass series which made its debut in 2017. With its overlapping shades and accents of brilliant metallic brushwork (made by hand, after the work was printed), this piece is particularly typical of the artist’s unrestrained drawing style.

Medici Macchia

The beauty of the Macchia series is how the glass sculptures catch and refract light, lending the colours an almost otherworldly intensity – you’d be surprised how long you’ll find yourself entranced by them. Recalling hand-crafted marbled end papers – the sort you find in exquisite old books – the scarlet glass of the Medici Macchia is peppered with glints of chartreuse and saffron and is crowned with sunshine yellow edging.

Terrace Sun

Architecture and interiors have long been a subject of great interest to Chihuly – a passion he shares with Paul, who has always understood the link between sartorial style and design. Drawing on the artist’s Chandeliers, Terrace Sun has a background of warm hues of ginger and apricot which contrast dynamically with the electric serigraphic print of the abstract chandelier form.

Kingfisher Persian

Perhaps the dictionary definition of a ‘showstopping piece’, Kingfisher Persian represents Chihuly’s Persian series, which explores the synergies between colour and energy. “The elasticity of each form manifests glass’s real character as a frozen liquid, as molecules held in suspension,” explains art historian Robert Hobbes. A composite of two strikingly fluid forms, Kingfisher Persian juxtaposes blue, green and amber tones.

Viola’s Reeds

Striking in their seeming simplicity, Chihuly’s Reeds were made possible by the high ceiling’s where the work was created in Finland which allowed for particularly elongated forms. That linearity is recreated in Viola’s Reeds, a print featuring the same subject matter in tranquil tones of violet, lilac and lavender on a stark metallic background.

Viola Plum Macchia

Named for the artist’s mother, whose verdant gardens continue to provide a rich source of inspiration to Chihuly, Viola Plum Macchia is demonstrative of the Macchia series’ distinctive contrasting interior and exterior colour palettes. The effect is achieved through careful application of the interior colour to a molten glass bubble and then rolled over fragments of white glass to keep the shades separate before pigments are added to the exterior.

Echo Floats

Particularly effective in its use of contrasting and complimentary colours, the vibrant Echo Floats serigraph references Chihuly’s energetic blown glass Floats. With spherical bands of both daffodil yellow ink and violet paint, the composition is flecked with specks of teal, deep turquoise and yellow which add a unique depth to the fresh green background.

Hyacinth Basket

Inspired by traditional Native American hand-woven baskets as well as the artistry behind the time-honoured craft, Hyacinth Basket mirrors the organic forms and malleability of natural materials. An exercise in recreating the way these items age, the piece is almost ethereal in its transparency, with the cool cobalt tones perfectly paired with sweeping arcs and bands of indigo blue.

Sea Basket

Demonstrative of Chihuly’s spontaneous style of drawing, Sea Basket reveals an incredible urgency. Splatters of cobalt blue radiate out from the main form, while a series of multicoloured dots in tones of iridescent copper, violet, deep red, and terracotta in the centre add to the work’s palpable sense of energy.

Pomegranate Persian

“The Persians are only one expression of the underlying, purely abstract and formal objective of [Dale’s] work,” art historian Tina Oldknow explains on the subject of the artist’s idiosyncratic series. “The exploration of form and the glass itself as a vehicle for color, and the orchestration of color to create transformational environments.” With its tell-tale bands and elegantly contorted interior element, Pomegranate Persian personifies this sentiment perfectly.

Autumn Basket

Like Sea Basket and Hyacinth Basket, Autumn Basket is inspired by aging, slumping traditional Native American baskets Chihuly first saw in a museum in 1977. First created in glass, his work exploring this theme is particularly evocative. Here, the colours of silvery tangerine, tropical yellow and cherry red are especially harmonious, while a halo of turquoise mirrors the contrasts present in his sculptural works.

Rosetta Persian

“A demonstration of wild asymmetry that borders on defiance,” explains Chihuly Studio, Chihuly’s Persians explore timelessness in contemporary contexts. With undulating bands of rosy red, spiralling fan-shaped element and a lime-green lip, the rippled effect showcases the natural movement of the molten glass in response to manipulation and gravity.

Big Blue Mouth, Artist’s Proof

After the success of Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem, a landmark exhibition held in 2000, Chihuly was commissioned by a hotel to create a significant body of work to hang in its rooms and public spaces to mark the millennium and modernity. The result was a series of vibrant woodcuts, among them Big Blue Mouth, which showcase the fluidity of Chihuly’s style and dynamic understanding of form and silhouette.

Periwinkle Persian

One of the singular things about Chihuly’s Persian series is that it originated as an exploration of what was possible within the realms of glass blowing ­– with the artist testing the limits of what breath, heat and gravity could achieve. An especially spontaneous composition, Periwinkle Persian is a graceful and fluid work, with a graduated pale lilac and violet body, soft blue lip and elegantly coiled internal element.

Lima Basket's, Artist's Proof

Part of the same series created for the Seattle hotel after the turn of the millennium, the Lima Baskets woodcut is stunning in its vibrancy and understanding of tone. Composed of overlapping spherical forms in various shades of green and teal (representing Chihuly’s aforementioned Basket series), it has a striking clarity, juxtaposed with fluid, free lines that almost hint at movement.

Byzantine Blue Persian

Byzantine Blue Persian is unique in Chihuly’s Studio Edition artwork, being the first of the pieces to be composed from three distinct elements: a fanned outer, arched inner and central sphere with coiled pistil-like form. An exercise in exploring similar colour families and the way light interacts with them, the brilliant blue shade slowly reveals tones of burgundy and violet within the piece that refract and reflect one another.

Sterling Floats

Drawn from the Niijima Floats which Chihuly created in 1991, Sterling Floats represents a 2D iteration of some of the largest handblown work the artist has created. Composed of two pewter grey and black globes against a vivid sky-blue backdrop, the liveliness of the primary red and yellow speckled dots gives the composition an incredible effervescence and energy.

Capri Blue Seaform

Designed to evoke aqueous elements, Capri Blue Seaform appears almost weightless – so much so that you can almost imagine it is moving. That fluidity is achieved through an emphasis on organic shapes and depth of palette. Composed of twin rippled forms, the contrasting shades of blue feel especially harmonious.

Four Gold Coins, Artist’s Proof

Identical in composition to Lima Baskets, Four Gold Coins displays the same harmonious vibrancy, this time in warm shades of deep burgundy, scarlet red and glints of golden yellow. Meanwhile, the tension between the clarity of the woodcut’s colours and the fluid black lines creates an unlikely calmness in the composition.

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Published: 10.22

Words: Molly Isabella Smith