I admit it-I have an obsession with all things made by master glass artist Dale Chihuly. I love the vibrant colors, the movement, and yes, the engineering and science that it takes to make his towering art installations. Throughout my travels, I go out of my way to see his work if it is on display nearby. So, when I was in London this summer, I made it a point to have a date with the Chihuly glass exhibit at Kew Gardens.
I was passing through London on my way back home to the states and only had a one day layover in the city. I could think of no better way to spend the summer day than strolling through the beautiful Kew Gardens which is located about 45 minutes southwest of central London. The District tube line takes you straight there and the Kew station is just a few blocks from the Victoria entrance gate.
Founded in 1840, Kew gardens boasts at being “the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world”, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The garden covers about 300 acres and is about one mile wide. You could see the highlights in a few hours, but why not make a day of it like I did.
Besides the varied gardens and conservatories, there are also a number of restaurants and cafes. I always try to do an afternoon tea when I am passing through London, so on this day I tried the tea at The Botanical restaurant inside Kew Gardens and it did not disappoint. Besides the delicious sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea, I also had a nice view across the pond to the Palm House and Chihuly’s Summer Sun glass sculpture.
If you are familiar with any of Dale Chihuly’s work, then you will recognize his signature style. He has a number of glass forms that are unique to his workshop and which you can count on seeing in any of his installations. What makes each exhibition unique is how he and (in this case) the Kew garden team combined the glass pieces with the environment where they are displayed so that it all comes together into one harmonious space.
Whether they contrast or blend in, the glass sculptures compliment their surroundings perfectly, both in form and color as the gardens become an outdoor gallery for the various Chihuly shapes.
The Chihuly: Reflections on Nature Exhibit
The Chihuly glass exhibit at Kew has his artworks displayed in twelve different locations throughout the gardens. Seeing this exhibit will also provide a nice overview of many of the highlights of this beautiful and historic garden.
Visitors are greeted by the white columns of the Temple of Bellona which form a perfect frame for the Sapphire Star.
Shirley Sherwood Gallery
In this indoor gallery space, you can get up close and personal with many of Chihuly’s classic glass shapes produced throughout his career.
Lime Crystal Tower
This Tower is not actually made of crystal, but rather from a polyurethane material. Still, it glows like large glass crystals when the sun shines through it.
The Japanese garden is a natural setting for the Niijima floats which were inspired by glass ball floats used by Japanese fishermen. Are they glass floats in a sea of sand or a constellation of planets in a cosmos of stone dust – you decide.
The temperate House is the world’s largest surviving Victorian structure. There are two large white and gold glass installations outside the entrance that compliment the colors on the outside of this recently restored conservatory.
Inside, there is a long unique hanging chandelier in shades of blue-green that compliment the large collection of temperate plants from around the world.
Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds
On one side of the Temperate House, a field of grasses displays glass shapes that mimic the grasses blowing in the wind.
Neodyum Reeds and Turquoise Marlins
Here, contrasting shades of turquoise and purple stand out in a sea of varied shades of green.
Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower
Surrounded by huge, ancient trees, the Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower glows amid the cooling shadows cast by the giant trees.
A grouping of simple red reeds add a pop of hot color to this corner of a Lily green house.
Ethereal White Persian Pond
This was my favorite installation. I normally love lots of color, but in this case the simple white glass forms mimicking the blooming water lilies was breathtaking.
Here, the pops of bright yellow and red add eye catching contrast to the green setting and hint at the colors in the herbaceous border behind the display.
It was overcast the day I was at Kew, which actually made this orange and yellow glass sun shaped sculpture stand out even more under the grey skies.
If you are passing through London I highly recommend seeing the Chihuly: Reflections on Nature exhibit at Kew Gardens. This exhibit runs until October 27, 2019. I suggest buying your tickets online ahead of time. If your schedule allows, visit during Thursday, Friday or Saturday when the glass installations are on view and lit up at night as well (a separate ticket is required for this).
I think Kew Gardens makes a good visit any time of year if you are touring in London. My first visit to these gardens was during November, and even at that time of year the garden and the greenhouses were a pleasure to walk through. For the most up to date information about visiting Kew Gardens, please visit https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens.
For a look at a permanent Chihuly sculpture in London, be sure to check out the lobby of the Victoria and Albert Museum (museum admission is free).
I have been to London often and you can read my posts and see my photos about this great city at https://quiltripping.com/?s=London .
If you would like to read more of my posts about Chihuly, then please check out On the Trail of Dale Chihuly – A Day in Tacoma, Washington (this post won a NATJA award), or my story about my stay at the Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai which has one of his large installations in the lobby. You can also read my post about the Chihuly Exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens.
For the latest information about Chihuly Exhibitions visit .https://www.chihuly.com/exhibitions .
Thanks for visiting.