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Matthew Pearson

Chihuly Nights: All You Need to Know

All you need to know about Chihuly Nights including...

  • What it is
  • Where it’s held
  • What you’ll see and what you’ll hear
  • How to get your ticket

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What is Chihuly Nights?

Chihuly Nights is an exciting collaboration between Kew Gardens and the influential American blown glass artist Dale Chihuly. The series of nights see historic Kew Gardens open its doors after hours, offering guests a rare chance to see the gardens as the sun sets, then see them artistically illuminated when darkness falls. Artworks from Chihuly’s ‘Reflections on Nature’ series are dotted across Kew Gardens. They're outside and isolated in landscaped areas, as well as in some of the atmospheric covered gardens. Their presence invites you to see the natural and the artificial from new perspectives; discover more about the influence of nature on Chihuly’s exploding, boundless sculptures; and admire one of London’s most popular tourist attractions as an artwork in itself.

Who is Dale Chihuly?

Dale Chihuly is one of the world’s most celebrated glass sculptors. The American artist is credited with reinvigorating glasswork within the fine art world. His works shows that the medium can be used to create thought-provoking and conceptual, rather than purely decorative, pieces. His studio-made glassworks possess all of the fragility, detail and beauty of smaller-scale blown glass pieces. But Chihuly scales his glassworks up to a monumental size, adding extravagance to the medium’s inherent delicacy. Chihuly’s pieces are architectural in the way they internally balance and are weighted to suit their surroundings, whether as installations or public artworks. They appear natural and organic in form, often an explosion of curls, ripples and shards, sometimes depicting recognisable shapes like petals and leaves. But their bright mix of colours and boundlessness make Chihuly’s works strikingly otherworldly at the same time. His work is held and displayed by more than 200 museums and galleries across the planet, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His most famous piece displayed in London hangs under the glass rotunda in the entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum, or V&A. The V&A Rotunda Chandelier is the first thing visitors notice as they enter the decorative art museum. First installed in 1999, the piece—which is not really a chandelier at all, but a hanging sculpture—is breathtaking in its boldness, dripping detailed form and bright colour palette.

What is Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew?

A botanic gardens and scientific organisation, famous throughout the world for its fantastic, diverse collections of plants and for its contributions to scientific research on conservation, sustainable development and plant diversity. Kew Gardens is one of the most beautiful places in London, with its sculpted areas and wilder portions rich in plant life and perfectly orchestrated. Highlights of the 132 hectare landscaped gardens include the rock garden, a dramatic wonderland of rocky outcrops, waterfalls and ponds, scattered with wild plants, collected from mountains regions across the planet,. And the arboretum—which boasts a vast collection of over 14,000 trees—is a gorgeous environment to explore as it changes with the seasons. Together with a second site at Wakehurst, Kew Gardens welcomes over 2.3 million guests a year. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2003. In 2019, Kew has been celebrating its 260th anniversary. Chihuly Nights is the perfect way for this forward-thinking organisation, eternally captivated by the natural world and our place in it, to celebrate their birthday.

What is Chihuly doing at Kew Gardens?

A collection of Chihuly’s glass artworks are displayed across different sections of Kew Gardens. Lit first by the setting sun, then by specially designed illuminations, the pieces collected here respond to the changing light in this late-summer, early-autumn show. The stunning, landscaped, perfectly arranged gardens provide a fitting setting for Chihuly’s works, with the natural world and the beautifully blown sculptures striking up conversations with one another with the dying of the light and the introduction of artificial light sources. In a natural environment, the sculptures appear at times as intruders, at times as though they belong. You can see the influence of the horticultural on Chihuly’s sculptures, the details he seeks to emulate in his created works, and the points at which he veers off from the natural and into his own imagination. Both the Temperate House and Waterlily House provide indoor environments for Chihuly pieces to decorate and be in dialogue with. The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art will also be open for guests to enter. Works from across Chihuly’s long and storied career fill the gallery. The event is thoughtfully soundtracked by moving pieces of music inspired by compositions by American composer Nico Muhly. Commissioned by Guest Artists, the pieces are also designed to invoke Chihuly’s style and artistic process, with the use of wind instruments and the human voice referencing the creation and finished form of the blown glass pieces. Kew’s Pavilion Bar and Grill is open to guests. Head there to enjoy a selection of dishes from Kew’s seasonal menus.

When can I go to Chihuly Nights?

Chihuly Nights is on between Thursday and Saturday, every week until 26th October. It opens at 19.30, and the last entry is at 21.00. It’s been on since August, so these are the last few weeks to catch it. The artworks of Chihuly, with the backdrop of Kew. You don’t want to miss out on such a perfect marriage as this.

How much does it cost to go to Chihuly Nights?

Adult tickets cost £18. Members get in for just £12. Concession tickets are available for £16, and carers get in for free. Child tickets cost £6.

Does my Chihuly Nights ticket include entry to Kew Gardens during the day?

No, it doesn’t. Chihuly Nights tickets are valid only for entry from 19.30 on the selected date. You can book ordinary daytime tickets for Kew Gardens here.

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