Art & Flowers: Chihuly returns for second act

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BY BRETT O‘BOURKE

bobourke@MiamiHerald.com

Artist Dale Chihuly once again will bring his spectacular glassworks to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Titled Art & Flowers: Chihuly at Fairchild, the event, running Dec. 9 to May 31, 2007, will mark the first time the sculptor has shown his colorful blown-glass creations in the same location two years in a row.

‘‘He initially said he‘d never install at the same place twice, but it became clear by the end of last‘s year exhibit that it was too good not to do again,‘‘ said Bruce Greer, Fairchild‘s Board of Trustees president. ``His condition was that this time had to be bigger and better.‘‘

Greer says that should be no problem; Chihuly now has an intimate knowledge of the space, and much of the infrastructure from last year‘s show, including lighting and power lines, remains.

Fairchild also will show works by international sculptors Franz West, Sol Lewitt, Ursula von Rydingsvard and Daisy Youngblood, Miami native Jeff Levine, and young artists from New World School of the Arts. Greer says all of the artists -- several of whom are prominent enough to merit shows in their own right -- approached the garden about showing work there.

‘‘They feel like Fairchild is a unique canvas on which to exhibit their work,‘‘ says Greer. ``We‘ve been approached by a number of major artists and expect we‘ll be doing more shows.‘‘

Greer says all the attention came as a result of last year‘s Chihuly show, which garnered much critical acclaim and brought in record numbers of visitors.

About 300,000 attended that exhibit, according to Fairchild‘s Chief Operating Officer Nannette Zapata, and the garden saw a membership increase of 60 percent.

More than 40,000 turned out to enjoy the food, drink, live music and lighted sculptures of Tropical Chihuly Nights during its December 2005 through May 2006 run.

Greer says Fairchild expects to announce the acquisition of three major pieces from that exhibit within the next month or so.

‘‘For many years, we were only preaching to the choir,‘‘ says Greer. ``Now, so many people have found out about us and our mission of education and conservation -- all of a sudden we have been discovered. I can‘t wait for the new exhibit to start.‘‘

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