Cultured Collections with Dale Chihuly

Prolific, pioneering glass artist and near octogenarian Dale Chihuly, opens his Boathouse—his private studio and hotshop—and Seattle home to reveal an ecclectic art collection whose blue chip pieces rub elbows with those of outsider artists and personal friends.

Elizabeth Fazzare

CollectionsDCOffice_011117_0198_sml_High-res JPEG _not resized_
The office in Dale Chihuly’s Seattle home features artworks including Andy Warhol's "Dollar Sign," 1981; Italo Scanga's "For My Friend and Brother;" and Christopher Makos's "Andy Glasses Four," 1986. Photography by Scott Mitchell Leen. © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

Elizabeth Fazzare: How did you begin to build your own collection?

Dale Chihuly: I started building my collection by exchanging pieces with fellow artists whose work I admired such as my dear friend Italo Scanga. Italo introduced me to flea markets and he and I found many incredible objects over the years, many of which I continue to live with and enjoy in my studio. I have also traded with galleries who represented me and artists I admire such as David Hockney. My wife Leslie and I have David’s drawing for his Grand Canyon painting in our home.

EF: What pieces inspired you to continue?

DC: There are so many—I am a big fan of outsider artist Henry Darger who was a janitor and toiled away for years working on his own, far away from the eyes of the art world. Not realizing that his work would become so acclaimed, I saw a large rectangular double-sided piece of his at the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago. It now hangs at the Boathouse on our property in Seattle. We had it framed and hung in such a way that guests can view both sides of the work, which are equally disturbing and otherworldly. I had an opportunity many years ago to do a trade with Andy Warhol who continues to be one of my favorite contemporary artists. We traded one of my works for one of his “Dollar Sign” paintings.

dale chihuly library

Italo Scanga’s “Figure (House and Tuba)” sculpture in the Boathouse library. Photography by Scott Mitchell Leen. © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

EF: What designers/artists are inspiring you right now?

DC: I continue to be inspired by artists like Roni Horn, who studied with me at RISD. I find her work, her ideas and her career so impressive. I also admire Kiki Smith, who has been a friend over many years. She and I share a love of nature. Her work is so compelling. I gave my wife Leslie Kiki Smith’s Touch (2006) from the Touch Folio, six prints with a poem by Henri Cole. Vera Lutter is another artist whose work I enjoy. We have a mesmerizing work of hers, Ca del Duca Sforza, Venice I: February 27, 2006, which is a photographic representation of my favorite city, Venice, Italy.

The artist (right) at work on his Merletto series. Photo © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

EF: Does the marketplace help your discovery process? Why or why not?

DC: While it is interesting to observe the ebb and flow of the art market, we don’t collect based on market trends. We look for work that touches us in some way. Recent acquisitions include ceramics, works in glass by our dear friend Preston Singletary with whom we traded one of my recent Merletto pieces. Leslie found a great Betye Saar beaded piece last spring in Los Angeles, which we are gifting to our son.

EF: What is the next piece on your radar?

DC: We don’t have a specific wish list.

EF: What is the one piece that got away?

DC: We’re still waiting for a great Van Gogh.

dale chihuly boathouse

The Northwest Room in Dale Chihuly’s private Boathouse features much of his collections of Native American baskets, portraits by Seattle artist Edward S. Curtis and Pendleton blankets. Chihuly’s own “Baskets” works sit on the Douglas Fir table. Photo © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.