As a $64 million new wing has been built at the Corning Museum of Glass over the past three years, a number of significant changes have been made in the existing section of the museum in conjunction with the project.
CORNING | As a $64 million new wing has been built at the Corning Museum of Glass over the past three years, a number of significant changes have been made in the existing section of the museum in conjunction with the project.
On Friday afternoon, one of the last pieces fell into place, as CMoG reopened the Ben W. Heineman Sr. Family Gallery of Contemporary Glass.
Closed since early January, the large upper-floor gallery used to showcase most of CMoG’s large-scale contemporary glass art pieces. They were put into storage, and they’ll be moved this fall to their new home, the 26,000-square-foot new contemporary glass gallery that will be a centerpiece of the new wing when it opens.
That left the question of what to do with the Heineman Gallery.
It was refurbished and reinstalled, with new lighting and displays, to focus on a key period of the studio glass movement, from 1975 to 2000, said Tina Oldknow, CMoG’s curator of modern glass.
Studio glass has its roots in America in the early 1960s, with the advent of small, affordable furnaces that let artists get creative in small independent studios, whereas before that, glass had been made mostly in factories by workers adhering to zealously guarded designs.
Studio glass artists, however, freely shared techniques and ideas, and the movement soon spread to Europe, Australia, Japan and other places, Oldknow said.
The quarter-century from 1975 to 2000 spotlighted by the new Heineman Gallery was a time of great change in studio glass, when glass “went from being used for craft and decorative purposes to being a medium for fine art,” she explained.
The new Heineman Gallery features a generous sampling of the most influential studio glass pioneers, from Americans Harvey Littleton and Dale Chihuly to international artists such as Lino Tagliapietra, an Italian, and the Czech married couple Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova.
The Heineman Gallery honors the late Ben Heineman Sr., a Chicago railroad tycoon who later formed one of the nation’s first business conglomerates and was a close confidant of President Lyndon Johnson, according to Heineman’s obituary in the New York Times.
Heineman was an avid collector of glass art, and in 2006, he donated about $10 million worth of glass to CMoG.
There are 185 objects by 97 artists in the newly reinstalled Heineman Gallery, and 62 of them are from Heineman’s personal collection, Oldknow said.
Karol Wight, CMoG’s executive director, called the Heineman Gallery reopening “a major milestone” in the museum’s ongoing transformation.
The space where the Heineman Gallery sits has a lot of history behind it, Wight added.
“The gallery was, believe it or not, the original footprint of the Corning Museum of Glass,” Wight said. “When the museum opened in 1951, this space contained the entire glass collection, as well as the staff, and the Rakow Research Library.”
There have been several incarnations of the gallery since, and the museum itself has been renovated and expanded several times.
Now, with the Heineman Gallery reinstalled, the staff will focus on getting ready to move into the new North Wing, rising where the former Steuben Glass factory once stood. It’s set to open to the public in December. Aside from the new contemporary glass gallery, it will feature a new 500-seat theater for hot glass shows.