Huffpost Culture

Is Dale Chihuly A Legitimate Artist?

Posted: Updated:

Dale Chihuly is one of the most controversial and successful artists working today. Ever since multiple injuries left him unable to physically create his own work, he has presided over a company of "artisans," as he calls them, who blow enormous glass pieces using methods Chihuly has trademarked. The completed pieces are inscribed with the Chihuly name and can be found in nearly every state in the country -- from the Bellagio in Las Vegas to Texas' botanical gardens to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Critics contend that Chihuly is more a businessman than an artist. Indeed, even his biggest supporters praise his artistry and self-promotional abilities in the same breath. When the Seattle Center opened its doors last week to reveal the largest Chihuly museum in the world, it was in defiance of local critics who dismissed the project as a crass marketing scheme that trod on valuable green space.

A post we wrote on the subject received hundreds of views and comments. Readers split along extreme lines: either they found Chihuly's work breathtaking, and wanted to buy a ticket to Seattle then and there, or they called him "the Thomas Kinkade of glass art" (decidedly not a compliment, as that commenter made sure everyone knew).

We found the debate fascinating. Whether or not Chihuly can be considered an artist begs the question of what art is. Is it necessarily something other than a product, and if so, how can the divide between the two be defined? We asked HuffPost blogger and Chihuly fan Jenny Block to make a case for Chihuly in this context. Using our "Change My Mind" feature below, you'll be able to weigh her opinion against those of our commenters who think otherwise, and decide for yourself who wins out. Click through, and as always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.


Pre-debate poll:

Tell us your opinion before the debate starts to set the starting line

Dale Chihuly is an artist.

Agree - Thanks for voting! Please proceed to read the debate below

Please vote to proceed to the debate


Who makes the better argument?

Point: Dale Chihuly's vision proves he is an artist.

The fact that something is expensive and not easy to get doesn’t automatically make it art. But in the case of Dale Chihuly, it does show that he doesn’t have any interest in mass-producing doodads, like, for example, Thomas Kinkade.
If the argument is to turn to the fact that Chihuly himself does not blow or construct every piece, then the greats are in trouble. The finest European masters all had apprentices who dirtied their hands and the master still signed his name. It's simply not a valid argument.
Chihuly is an artist’s artist, returning to the same shapes and colors and constructions again and again to see how far he can push the medium of glass. His work is massive blocks of ice with colored lights behind it melting in the dessert. His work is streams of paint thrown with command and landing in beauty. This isn’t art for the weak. It is art for those who are up for the inquiry.
Can you show it outside? How about in water? What about in freezing temperatures with snow falling all around? How can one rediscover the beauty of glass again and again?
That is what Chihuly is asking. The rest of us should be asking -- why aren’t we all heading to Seattle immediately?
-Jenny Block
Point: Dale Chihuly's methods prove he is not an artist.

"I agree with many of the comments....if one has never seen Chihuly's work, the first time is amazing. However, as many people who have seen Chihuly exhibits note, its all the same....for almost 40 years. I like colored glass, I enjoyed visiting the Murano factory but.... it is a factory cranking out the same thing over and over again. And thats the same feeling I get when I see Chihuly's pieces -- nothing new."
"I think it's size over content, I have a very hard time calling it art. It's very craftsy. If it weren't done on such oversized scales I don't think people would be very interested in it, just like the vintage Murano you can pick up on eBay on the cheap.
"At a certain point in his career, Warhol wasn't creating any of his own art. He had a team creating his "vision" just as Dale does. Just like Dale, Warhol had become a master marketer, not an artist. Dale's works are breathtaking, but they're the result of a very corporate-like vision, not an artistic one."



Did one of the arguments change your mind?

Dale Chihuly is an artist.


Agree - Thanks for voting again! Here are the results:



moreless AgreeDisagreeUndecided

"Agree""Disagree"Neither argumenthas changed the most minds

Around the Web

Commenters on Chihuly museum let it fly

Grand opening of Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass

Two new shows at the Museum of Glass celebrate an unlikely pairing of events ...

Chihuly glass-art center to open soon as Seattle Center spectacle