Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Richmond Rave: Chihuly at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Here in little old Richmond, we are lucky enough to have a world-class fine arts museum - the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

I can hear your groan right now - geesh, first this girl tries to convince me to go the Symphony, now she wants me to go look at paintings?

Just give me a minute, ok?

Ever since the VMFA reopened in May 2010 after years of major renovation and building, they have been trotting out one fabulous exhibit after another. I went to Picasso, Elvis at 21, Xu Bing's Tobacco Project, Farbrege Revealed, Mocha Dick, and Tiffany: Color and Light and loved every single one.

Don't tell the others... but Fabrege was my favorite... until now.

Chihuly, the current exhibition, has unseated them all. Teka and I hit it up on the Friday before the marathon.

If you've never heard of Chihuly - ok let's be real... you probably haven't - he is a completely awe-inspiring, phenomenally-talented, eye-patch wearing American glass artist whose work is nothing short of amazing.

What makes the eye patch even more bad-ass?
He got it when a car accident threw him through a windshield
and the glass cut his face.
The GLASS... which he continues to use to create amazing art!
His work is everywhere from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The current exhibition at VMFA features 6 rooms of Chihuly's works plus an outdoor sculpture that was completed over the summer and a large (and by large, I mean GIGANTIC) chandelier installation in the main lobby of the Museum.

There are many many reasons why I love this exhibit. First, and most simply, the art is both breath-takingly impressive and  accessible. I can guarantee that everyone who goes to see this will enjoy it. A lot of people don't like to go to fine art museums because they think they won't "get it" and will therefore look less-than-intelligent (or some other silly thing).

It's impossible to not "get" Chihuly. I mean, look  at this stuff:

(all photos taken by me legally  at the VMFA exhibit)

Second, I just kind of love Dale Chihuly. The guy is a no-nonsense bad-ass artist. For $5, I got the audio guide for the exhibit, which featured Chihuly himself. I hadn't yet experienced the artist telling me about his art (since most of the art I go see is by long-dead artists...), so it was a treat. It was even more fun because his explanations were very frank and to the point. Usually they were something like, "I like the way it looked, so I just went with it." Or, "I wanted to use every color of this material that is possible to create, so I did."

No pretending like he is some inspired gift from God - he just does his thing, and if it turns out cool, well, cool.

Love it.

I also think it is awesome that Chihuly allows photography in his exhibitions. Nine times out of ten, photos inside of ticketed exhibits are a no no, for understandable reasons - if I go in an photograph every thing in the exhibit then post it on my blog, why would anyone then go pay to see it?

Chihuly's works are different though. They are so complex that there is no way that photos can do them justice. Every person will notice something different about each installtion - each person will make Chihuly their own when they see it for themselves. What you see in my pictures are what I got out of the exhibit - which will be completely different from what you get from it.

Plus he has an eye-patch. Which just makes him that much more awesome.

Third, the exhibition is large enough to feel fulfilling but small enough to not feel like you just want to be finished. I loved the Fabrege exhibition, for instance, but it felt like they just threw every piece of (non-interesting) Fabrege that they could find into it along with the real draw, the Imperial Easter Eggs. Yes, some of it was also very interesting, beautiful, and cool... but it was a bit of overkill. It took forever to get through that exhibit... even longer  than forever if you were with a group of people who wanted to look at every.single.blessed.piece.

You can go see and appreciate the Chihuly in 30 minutes. Of course you can linger if you want to (I revisited my favorite room, which I'm going to share in a minute), or you can go through faster than that, though I don't know why you'd want to. I think that Teka and I took about 40 minutes.

The final, and biggest reason, I love this exhibit: the Persian Ceiling installation. I could have sat under that ceiling for hours and never have been bored. Actually, I might go back just so I can sit in that room for a while.

Teka taking it all in.
So this weekend, after you've gorged yourself on Thursday and shopped like a fool on Friday, perhaps a visit to Chihuly is in order.

In fact, I insist. You won't be sorry, and everyone will enjoy it.

The lowdown:
  • The exhibit runs through Feb 10, 2013 but take it from me - you do NOT want to go in the last month of its run. I did that with Picasso and the place was a complete zoo. Go now, before everyone panics because it's going to be gone soon and they haven't gone to see it yet. Crowds are not conducive to art viewing. Go now when it's quiet and you have plenty of time to enjoy and dawdle.
  • Cost is $20 per adult, $16 for seniors 65+, students with ID, adult groups of 10+, and youth ages
    7 – 17, FREE for VMFA Members. I highly advise getting a membership. Mine has paid for itself many times over... plus it gives you free parking. Speaking of which...
  • Parking can be found in the VMFA parking deck (accessible from Boulevard or Sheppard Street), $5 for non-members, FREE for members (get a membership!). There's plenty of free street parking around, but sometimes finding a spot is harder than it should be.
  • You are allowed to take photos in the exhibit, which is unusual (no flash).
  • If you haven't already done so, take some time to explore the rest of the VMFA. The permanent collections are free and they are wonderful. I especially love the East Asian Collection.
  • Museum hours vary, so check out their website.

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