Posts

Ercole Barovier: Murano glass visionary

NEW YORK – Not many companies have been in continuous operation for 750 years, but that enviable claim can be made by the Italian glassworks firm Barovier & Toso, founded in 1295 in Italy as Vetreria Artistica Barovier & Co. The enterprise is still going strong today, with the new name the result of a merger with the Toso family of Italy in the 1930s. Today the company is run by Angelo Barovier, the latest in a long line of Baroviers dating all the way back to 1295. It was Angelo’s father, Ercole Barovier (1889-1974), who left a major mark on the company and the entire glassworks industry.

Ercole Barovier mosaic vase Vetreria Artistica Barovier, Italy, circa 1925, clear glass with mosaic pattern of clear, cobalt, amethyst, and emerald, rim with gold flecking, mosaico vaso Murano. 9½in tall, est. $30,000-$50,000, sold for $112,500 at an auction held Jan. 1, 2018. Nadeau’s Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

Ercole Barovier was born in Murano, Italy, and also died there. He joined the family business as a partner in 1919 and in 1926 was named artistic director. He was more than just a businessman; he was an entrepreneur and artistic visionary. He invented the “heat coloring without fusion” technique and from the late 1920s until his retirement in 1972 he personally designed every significant glass object produced by the company – a portfolio that boasted over 25,000 designs. Ercole Barovier lights, glass and designs can be found in major museum collections worldwide.

Beginning in 1933, Barovier designed a number of vessels with unmelted pigment dispersed in thick, clear glass as decoration. In these, he incorporated references from nature, history and contemporary art – evidence of his genius. Embellished with expressive hot-work applications, some of his creations had soft organic forms inspired by sea life and the ever-changing effect of light on water. His A Mugnoni, Medusa and Lenti series share this naturalist aesthetic, combined with the feeling of monumental sculpture most associated with the late Italian Novecento style.

In the 1950s Barovier’s interest in ancient glass and primitive objects became apparent in the series Barbarico, Aborigeni and Neolitici.  During this time period, Barovier also made poetic reference to design motifs from classical antiquity through the use of tightly controlled geometric patterning resulting in the series Moreschi, Dorico, and Argo. The Intarsio series was composed of clear and brightly colored glass tesserae and shows the influence of Op-Art. Barovier’s many bestowed honors included being named Cavaliere del Lavoro by the Italian government in 1954.

Ercole Barovier Murano Venetian glass wedding studio art glass vase with a pinched gourd design with spotted panels of blue among flecks of gold all cased in clear glass, reminiscent of Native American wedding vessels, unsigned, 10¾in tall, good overall condition, est. $500-$1,500, sold for $2,880 at an auction held Dec. 12, 2018. Hill Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

So what is it about Barovier that explains the man’s success and the company’s longevity? “Color, color and color,” declared Shane Combs of Hill Auction Gallery in Sunrise, Florida. “Ercole Barovier was fearless. He wasn’t afraid to experiment with unknown formulas to create a new and exciting color. His vast knowledge of traditional techniques combined with emerging technological advances in glassmaking made for the perfect storm. Vibrant shades and artistic designs were executed with precision and elegance unsurpassed by many of his industry rivals.”

Combs said that with the rise in demand for fine midcentury modern furniture, there’s been a steady increase in the demand for decorative accessories. “Well educated consumers are seeking the best examples to accent their homes and as a long-term investment in an often-turbulent secondary market,” he pointed out. “The quiet and deceptively simple forms of Ercole Barovier vessels and their bold colors are perfect for the well curated interior.”

Rare Ercole Barovier Tessere polychrome murrine art glass vase, colorless, cylindrical form with fused murrines encompassing amethyst, teal and blue layered triangles, opal edges of the murrines, with original paper label stating ‘MARIO SANZOGNO,’ circa 1963, 9¾in tall, est. $5,000-$8,000, sold for $18,675 at an auction held Oct. 19, 2019. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers image

Chase Lanford of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in Mount Crawford, Virginia, said it’s important to recognize that Ercole Barovier descended from the legendary Barovier family in Murano. “This family had been working in glassmaking for generations before, and were already a well-recognized and respected firm,” he said. “Ercole grew up around glass and, like many in Murano, it was a way of life. I think really what makes Ercole Barovier such a revered artist is he is somewhat of a transitional figure – a studio artist before the movement ever really caught on.”

Lanford said it was Barovier’s unique merger of time-honored technique and the embracing of new technology that allowed him to push the limits of glass making and introduce a large audience to his work. “He also mastered murine construction and mosiac glassmaking, showing people the tremendous scope of color that only glass can provide,” Lanford remarked. “Glass is a medium that shows color in a unique way and Barovier showed the world a new rainbow of color. So, with him being a greatly skilled technician, having a great care of form, and expressing the latter with tremendous mosaics of color, are what brought Barovier such profound success.”

Ercole Barovier ‘Maternity’ series art glass figural sculpture, circa 1933, the stylized figure having a white lattimo glass body, with a blue/green opaque glass skirt accented with gold foil inclusions, 10½in tall, unsigned, est. $800-$1,200, sold for $1,260 at an auction held April 22, 2018. Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

Cristina Campion of Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland, California, said Ercole Barovier has always been collected by both Italian glass afficianados and interior designers alike for decades, mainly because of his Modernist techniques. “His pieces really challenged and furthered technological advancements in glass making of the 1920s through ’60s,” she said. “One of my favorite examples is the Lenti series, which used clear glass pieces having highly textured surfaces. The large oval glass pieces would be fused together, and the vases often featured beautiful gilt inclusions. This style pairs well with any Modernist home.”

Karen Swager of Brunk Auctions in Asheville, North Carolina, agreed that people are attracted to Barovier’s innovative designs and techniques, developed and revised over his long career. “His work appeals to people on different levels,” Swager said. “Some collectors may seek out pieces from a certain period in his career. Others may be more interested in the technical aspects of his work, but all can enjoy the sheer beauty of the glass.  His art glass creations can be showcased in a room or gallery with fine art and antiques or complement midcentury modern décor.”

Pezzato bicolor glass vase, designed by Ercole Barovier for Barovier & Toso, blue and white tessere fused together, label on base, ‘Barovier & Toso/Murano/21518/Made in Italy,’ 17in tall, est. $4,000-$6,000, sold for $16,640 at an auction held May 17, 2019. Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

With regard to market demand for Barovier’s work, Swager reviewed his auction records and determined the demand has been fairly consistent for the last five to ten years. “His early works from the Primavera series can bring record prices well over $100,000, but his later pieces from the 1950s and 1960s seem to bring more in $5,000 to $20,000 range,” she said. “The Pezzato bicolor vase we sold in May 2019 hammered at $13,000 with an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. In most cases, conservative estimates for Barovier’s glass have achieved higher results as I did notice some passed lots with steeper estimates. Like so many things in the antique and art markets, I suspect values for the rare and exceptional Barovier works will continue to climb and values for later examples produced during his career will continue to hold.”

Cristina Campion at Clars said that Italian Modern Design overall today is very popular. “Furniture designers such as Gio Ponti and Ico Parisi are quite collected,” she said. “As a result of this, Ercole Barovier’s pieces are highly sought-after as well. While styles may change over time, similar to the stock market, I foresee that renowned glassmakers like Barovier will always retain their inherent value.”

Ercole Barovier bowl, Italy, 1957, glass tesserae, iridized transparent glass, Incised signature and date to underside: ‘Ercole Barovier 1957,’ 3½in tall, est. $7,000-$9,000, sold for $13,000 at an auction held May 23, 2018. Wright and LiveAuctioneers image

Shane Combs at Hill Auction said the rarity of early Barovier glass has been underappreciated for years. “The rising demand for his early innovative pieces using mosaico or murrine construction are seeing record setting prices when presented at auction,” he said. “We’re likely to see rising prices for average pieces as the market expands. Museum quality examples are likely to emerge from estates as popular culture catches on to the trend.”

Jasper52 devotes online auction to Murano glass March 14

All the colors of magnificent Venice in the form of Murano glass artworks are presented in a Jasper52 online auction on Wednesday, March 14. Elegant vases, centerpieces, sculptures and jewelry are among the unique treasures in this sale.

Mosaic vase series created by Amedeo Rossetto for Eugenio Ferro glassworks, 2015, 44.5 cm high, 17.8 in. Estimate: $3,400-$3,800. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Dale Chihuly: artist, educator, public art advocate

Glass installation by Dale Chihuly, as featured in an extensive exhibition of his work at Kew Gardens, London, in 2005. Photo by Patche99z

Unconventional, bold, surprising, creatively ambitious, collaborative, progressive and a catalyst and ambassador for artistic opportunity and appreciation. These are some of the words and phrases used to describe Dale Chihuly. Like his complex art glass installations that have mesmerized millions around the world, Chihuly is far more than one-dimensional. Some might say he’s the quintessential example of life imitating art.

Dale Patrick Chihuly came from a middle-class background and grew up in Washington state. His father was a butcher and union organizer. His mother was a homemaker and ardent gardener. By the time Chihuly was 17, both his father and his only sibling, a brother, had died, forcing his mother to work outside the home. Between 1959 and 1965, Chihuly was primarily a college student. He also traveled and lived abroad (Italy and the Middle East), studying art in its various forms. Upon returning to the United States and graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in interior design, he joined the Seattle architecture firm John Graham & Co. It was at this time, in the mid-1960s, that he began to explore glassmaking in the basement of his home.

1992 photo portrait of artist Dale Chihuly at Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington. Photo by Bryan Ohno, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

In 1966, he departed Seattle for Madison, Wisconsin, where he completed graduate studies in glassblowing at the University of Wisconsin. It was the first glass program of its kind. Chihuly’s academic accomplishments did not end with earning his masters in sculpture, and in fact, his next educational adventure would inspire his role as an educator; something he continues to do, albeit less formally, today. He embarked on studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where his artistic exploration involved the use of neon and argon, and the continued expansion of his experimentation with blown glass.

Fun Fact: While on a fellowship in 1968, Dale Chihuly worked at the Venini glass factory in Murano, Italy. He was the first American glassblower invited to do so.

His academic career as instructor, adviser and department chair included more than a decade spent at RISD, co-founding the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington; and participating in various artist-in-residency programs.

“I didn’t care if they wanted to be artists, designers or craftsmen. It didn’t make any difference to me, as long as it was the most important thing in their lives.” – Dale Chihuly

Flame of Liberty, Dale Chihuly, 2000, a 20-foot glass sculpture, permanently on display at the National Liberty Museum, Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Trip Advisor.

His life’s work, in part, appears to be a symbiotic pairing of creating art while also empowering and equipping others to create and appreciate various forms of art. For more than a half-century, Chihuly has transformed vision, sentiment and examples of symbolism through the art, be it in glass, or other media. His work has appeared in exhibitions in cities, gardens and museums across the country and around the world. Institutions and agencies, including the National Liberty Museum, Philadelphia, are home to permanent Chihuly installations. For example, the museum houses the 20-foot Flame of Liberty sculpture, which was installed in 2000.

“We are very fortunate to have such an important sculpture at the center of our museum,” said Meegan Coll, Glass Art Director, National Liberty Museum. “Dale Chihuly is a master in his field, not only in technique but also in both scale and interaction with light and space.”

Coll continued, “The Flame of Liberty inspires dialogue and emotional response from our visitors, which is exactly what Dale and the museum’s founder, Irvin Borowsky, hoped for when they planned the installation. We use the Flame to converse with visitors about the fragility of freedom and the role we each play in safeguarding it.”

Deepest Orange Basket set with black lip wraps, blown glass, Dale Chihuly, 8.5 x 20 in., signed, 1994. Sold for $23,000 during The National Liberty Museum’s 14th annual Glass Now Auction, held Sept. 28, 2013. National Liberty Museum and LiveAuctioneers image.

Fun Fact: Chihuly is also a collector, reportedly favoring Native American baskets, trade blankets, bottle openers, old cameras, radios, pocket knives, and accordions. The book Chihuly: An Artist Collects written by Bruce Helander and published in 2017 (Abrams) explores the personal collections of Chihuly and other artists.

“When I start to collect something, I often don’t start with a single object. Sometimes I start with ten or twenty or a hundred. It is like creating my own little museum.” – Dale Chihuly

Art that prompts discussion and action is a common thread in the tapestry of the work of this 76-year-old artist. Throughout much of his career, Chihuly has been a champion of consistent access to art and opportunities to explore means of artistic expression, for all people. It’s evident in such installations as Chihuly Over Venice, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem and other exhibitions worldwide. It’s also part of the mission of the foundation established by Chihuly and his wife, Leslie. The foundation helps to fund and foster art education and appreciation for people from all walks of life, with particular effort taken to ensure youth, the elderly, veterans, and people with varying abilities are presented with these opportunities, according to information from www.chihuly.com.

Massive blue and red Persian blown glass with red lip wrap, Dale Chihuly, Seattle, Washington, 1989, signed and dated, 19 x 33 x 18 in. One of 13 examples of Chihuly’s work included in the Jan. 21, 2018 auction to be conducted by Rago Arts. (est. $4,000-$6,000). Rago Arts and LiveAuctioneers image.

It’s this commitment to art through appreciation, preservation and creation that inspires many, noted Coll, who says the inclusion of drawings by Chihuly and an installation from his Persian Series are also popular draws at the museum. On occasion over the years, the Museum has presented items at auction, including a handful of pieces by Chihuly. This provides the opportunity for another to serve as guardian of Chihuly’s transformative artistry.

Chihuly pushes the limits of artistic expression; his inspiration is boundless,” Coll said. “I think we learn from Chihuly that our potential is greater than we imagine and that everyone can push themselves to achieve more than they expected. Chihuly shows other artists that every element in their work, even the smallest details, adds enormously to the overall result.”

The same can be said for the person who seeks to acquire examples of Chihuly art. While his work can be enormous in scale and imagination, it can also be smaller in scale and still be interpreted as an explosion of color, light and form.

“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way that they’ve never experienced.” – Dale Chihuly

Cobalt chandelier, 2003, hand-blown glass with steel armature, Dale Chihuly, illuminated internally (by a neon-lighted core) as well as externally, 94 x 72 x 72 in. Sold for $130,000 on May 22, 2013. Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image.

Whether palatial installations or artworks small enough to hold in the palm of a hand, the distinctiveness, vibrancy and limitless creativity of Dale Chihuly’s artistry remains accessible to the people – just as the artist planned them to be.