Friday, June 4, 2010

Tiffany Glass comes to the VMFA

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For its first international exhibit, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts welcomed Tiffany: Color and Light into its newly renovated halls this past weekend. The collection showcases the talents of Louis Comfort Tiffany, a 20th century glass master known for his stained glass and decorative lamps. Richmond is the final stop for the touring collection, which originated in Montreal, Canada.

Alex Nyerges Director of the VMFA, said Richmond already contained a vast collection of Tiffany glass and it seemed fitting to bring the “Light and Color” show here.

“Richmond is one of the great repositories for Tiffany treasures, thanks to Sydney and Frances Lewis. We at the VMFA have one of the greatest collections in the world.”

The exhibit was initiated by the Montreal museum of Fine Arts after they acquired a near by church. Natalie Bondiel, director of the Montreal Museum told the rest of the story at the gallery opening.

“In this church, there were some windows, a very important collection of 18 windows, by Tiffany. And this treasury stayed unknown until we bought the church. We decided to initiate this exhibition to study the windows and restore them ect. And for us it was a great discovery. For us, this exhibition means a lot because it is a testimony, a legacy, we are giving back to the community.”

In Montreal, The exhibit saw over 120,000 visitors, and was as successful on in Paris, France. Its final stop is here in Richmond.

Wile the works themselves are incredible, the VMFA has worked hard with the Montreal Museum to create an interactive experience for patrons to fully experience the priceless works.

Part of that effort is in the form of an audio tour included in the admission ticket. You have a choice between spoken information about individual pieces, or music of the era. Janet Starkley came in from Henrico county to see the VMFA for the first time since its reopening. She found special interest in the audio tour.

“You walk around with this audio tape and you can either hear about the work of art or hear music that they decided corresponds with what you are looking at, and I have to say I didn’t expect that. And if you really listen, you can feel the art through the music they have selected.”

Nygeres says the musical section helps bring the museum visitor into the world of Tiffany.

“To be able to listen to the music of the era of Lewis Tiffany, it’s just so wonderful because it ads a new demotion beyond the visual and pure historical. It’s a wonderful way to blend the art.”

Susan Gregory, a Henrico County resident, had seen Tiffany works before, but never so nicely put together and organized. She had been waiting to see the newly remodeled VMFA and wile down town she decided to stop by.

“It was quite stunning, quite wonderful. I liked that there was just enough, it wasn’t overwhelming. The stained glass windows from Montreal were incredible. And the large pieces of stained glass were great, and I had not seen a lot of the large pieces before. There was lots of pottery a lot of smaller pieces of glass work, so it was nice to see those.”

Jim Starkley also made his first visit to the museum since its reopening. He restored stained glass 30 years ago so he had a special appreciation for the work of the master.

“I love stained glass, its one of those organic art forms that really speaks to me, you can see the craftsmanship that’s in it. Its readily accessible through all the buildings in the area. I did a lot of work restoring stained glass through out New York State, and so its good to see it again, especially the good stuff. A lot of the stuff you see in shops, trying to compare it to Tiffany work well, its kind of unfair.”

This is not the first Tiffany glass to appear in Richmond. The VMFA has a sizable collection of the master’s works in its permanent collection. A particular piece, titled ‘Punch Bowl,’ stands out in the room dedicated to Tiffany works located on the 3rd floor. This organic, multi-hued piece is in fact a punch bowl, lined with ladle and cups.

Nyerges explains the piece’s relevance.

“It’s a typical example of great Art Nouveau work. It was shown in the Paris exhibition in 1900, it was the star of the show. It made Tiffany a star. It is probably the most unique of his creations, and that’s saying a lot considering the master of glass that he was.”

"Tiffany Glass: Color and Light” is running now through August 15th at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard. Tickets can be purchased online at $15 for general admission, and $12 for groups, seniors, students, and youths 7 to 17. Learn more at To see pictures of some of the pieces, check out our website

For Richmond Independent Radio News, I’m Brad Kutner

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