Shattering the Glass

Dale Chihuly brings his overblown and overpriced "art" to town. Will Houstonians buy it?

And this is far from the only tale of Chihuly employee abuse floating around. The artist is notorious in his hometown of Seattle, known for being charming to collectors while reducing secretaries to tears. In 2001, The Blue Hammer ( published an article called "Is It Okay to Hate Dale Chihuly?" In it, former Chihuly employee Jim Hearsey describes the man as an "irrational tyrant surrounded by an army of trembling sycophants." Seattle artist Charles Krafft refers to him as the "Liberace of the art world." And glass artist Larry Stauffer, while agreeing with the chorus that Chihuly is "a piece of shit," admits, "I don't care! He made $23 million last year! The more successful I am, the more I understand what it takes to get there, and I appreciate that."

And that is where Chihuly's real artwork lies, in his ability to harness his outsize ego to organize and promote his glass production. His studio turns out 200 to 300 pieces a day. His installation teams present galleries with specifications for everything from ladder heights to the exact types of lighting required. He sends representatives to promote his work at his openings. He has managed to make himself into a brand name, so much so that some collectors want to purchase "a Chihuly" sight unseen, just for the sake of having one.

Chihuly is asking a whopping $250,000 for his Gilded and Amber Chandelier.
Jan Cook
Chihuly is asking a whopping $250,000 for his Gilded and Amber Chandelier.


Through December 31; 713-520-9988
McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond

Ultimately, however, Chihuly is even cannier than Thomas Kinkade. He doesn't have to pay the overhead of mall storefronts -- galleries pay to bring in his work. It's just too bad he doesn't have a slogan. How about Dale Chihuly, Blowhard of Light?

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