Dale Chihuly on Lockdown and His New Exhibition at the Sandra Ainsley Gallery in Toronto

Legendary glass.

Dale Chihuly and Sandra Ainsley have known each other for over 30 years, and their new collaboration at Ainsley’s industrial warehouse-turned-gallery outside of Toronto is a fully-developed exhibition that draws from the duration of the long-lasting professional relationship between artist and gallerist.

Ainsley is currently the only person to represent and sell Chihuly’s legendary glass work in Canada, and the exhibition, which runs until January 2021, has been switched online (with some in-person viewings available) in accordance with the new rules.

“This exhibition is significant because it was designed to show the breadth of my work over the last three decades—which is also how long I’ve known Sandra Ainsley,” says Chihuly. “I’ve presented six exhibitions at her gallery, and I think this one really celebrates our long-standing working relationship. Another exciting element is that I am showing my Light Drawings in Canada for the first time.”


Baskets. Photo by Hyghly.


Organizing and executing the work of putting together an exhibition is challenging at the moment. Coupled with the task of building infrastructure for online viewing, these difficulties may seem too much, but galleries such as Ainsley’s have risen to the occasion. Coupled with art that is often huge and requires a full team to make and set up, the work of creating an exhibition such as CHIHULY can be a logistical mountain, even in normal times. Chihuly says that they had to shut down the studio for a few months because it was difficult to blow glass in a safe way. He used that time to find inspiration for news methods of working, and this exhibition takes inspiration from those musings, as well as a new collaboration with the Rug Company.

“Another challenge for both artists and gallerists is translating work that’s meant to be seen in person into a digital landscape—can we do this effectively? And if so, how? But I think times of adversity always inspire opportunities for innovation and creative thinking. Artists and gallerists are finding unique new ways to present work to the public, which benefits everyone. And I think we can all benefit from slowing down the way we interact with and experience art,” Chihuly notes.


Sandra standing next to Seaform. Photo by Hyghly.


The CHIHULY exhibition features works from different periods of Chihuly’s career in various sizes and modes. Light Drawings are reflections on his travels through Europe, which give insight to his burgeoning practice and the thoughts of a young man who would go on to become the world’s foremost glass fine artist. Technically challenging work such as his Jerusalem Cylinders will also be on display.

The focus on Chihuly’s drawings and letters is an homage to his relationship with Sandra Ainsley and her gallery as well as the conversations about communication that we all have been having due to COVID.

“I don’t do email, so I write personal messages with little drawings. I send and receive a lot of letters. I find them to be more expressive, meaningful, and lasting than digital communication,” Chihuly explains, and given his prolific career, maybe we should all be taking notes.


Fire Basket. Photo by Hyghly.


Oysterbaskets. Photo by Hyghly.

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