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August - September 2005


Chihuly Comes to Kew: Exhibition by Dale Chihuly till 15 January 2006

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, situated in the south–west London are spread over 300 acres. For centuries it has been the home of extraordinary and rare species of trees and plants from all over the world. It has recently been included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. There are three major glasshouses. The Palm House dating from 1844 and 1848 is one of the iconic buildings at Kew. It alone contains more than 1100 species of plants. The Temperate House is the largest glasshouse and holds the world’s largest indoor plant, a palm some 16 metres tall. The third large glasshouse is called Princess of Wales Conservatory and it has ten different microclimate zones, ranging from arid desert to tropical rainforest.

However, for nine months from 28 May 2005 to 15 January 2006 Kew Gardens have become a ‘stage’ for the display of many large, colourful and shiny glass sculptures. These sculptures were made by a famous American artist, Dale Chihuly and have been installed in and around three main glasshouses. The sculptures blend beautifully with the historic landscape of Kew in as much as in some cases it is difficult to differentiate between plants and glass art works. Chihuly is a leading international artist of contemporary glass. His works are generally monumental in scale with vibrant brilliant colours and he is known for trying and testing new boundaries of the techniques and skills of glass blowing.

Palm House, in its beautiful setting facing the lake

A Natural Sculpture – Dual Tree Trunk; notice its beautiful bark

In this example it is hard to differentiate between art work and actual plants or foliage

Temperate House

‘Ikebana’, one of many pieces made by Chihuly, who was inspired by
the stylised beauty of Japanese floral arrangements

Ikebana, another piece

A Natural Sculpture – Giant Lilly

Composition in glass

Large flower-like bowls placed on pedestals

Composition called ‘Sun’

Another example of a natural object – trunk of a palm tree, perhaps inspiring many bottle designers

 Massive sized ‘Chandelier’

Floaters: different coloured onion shaped glass floating in the lake

Stunning bouquet of colourful glass leaves, petals and flowers

A boat filled with beautiful glass art pieces

‘Baskets’, its design is based on Indian baskets

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