Last Friday I got the opportunity to check out the brand new Chihuly exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. I’d visited the museum once before, about three years ago, but I was excited to return to check out the new additions. Before this trip, all I really knew about Dale Chihuly was that he created the gorgeous glass chandeliers that used to hang in the atriums of the Disney Magic and Wonder cruise ships. Seeing more of his work up close and in a very different environment was awesome and gave me a whole new appreciation for him as an artist! If you live near NW Arkansas or will be visiting the area soon (it’s only about 2 hour drive from Branson!) I highly recommend heading over to Crystal Bridges to check out the exhibition! The gallery exhibit runs through August 14th, but the outdoor pieces will be on display until mid-November.
I visited the museum as part of a group of influencers treated to a special sneak peek of the brand new exhibition in partnership with Crystal Bridges. We started our evening with a cocktails at Eleven Restaurant and a trio of tasting menu dishes inspired by the works of art on display. The food was just as colorful and intricate as the art:
Each dish is inspired by a specific piece or collection in the exhibit.
The Connecticut Bluepoint Oysters with pickled apple batons and chile oil spears were inspired by the Fiori Boat pictured below them. The menu also includes a Beet Caprese (pictured above the oysters) inspired by Chihuly’s Red Reeds, and a Sesame Seed Encrusted Ahi Tuna inspired by the Fire Orange Baskets I’ve included photos of further down this post.
Just for you guys and for the sake of thorough research, I also sampled the Eleven Martini, which includes peach vodka, ginger liqueur, and fresh lime. It was way more citrus-y than I expected, but a great palate cleanser between the tasting menu dishes and quite good!
We began our curator-led museum tour with the gallery portion of the exhibition. There are over 300 pieces on display all together, including the 14 works in the gallery and 10 outdoor installations. Several pieces were created just for the Crystal Bridges exhibition, so this is the first time they’ve been displayed.
The artist created this new “marigold” color and this collection of objects just for this exhibition! The pattern reminds me of a lionfish.
Glass blown art is so cool. Some of the promotional materials describe Chihuly’s works as “Born of fire, forged with breath, and filled with light”, and I think the Fire Red Baskets above really capture all of that! (I posted a video of these baskets on Facebook if you want to see the full collection!)
Chihuly lives in the Pacific NW, so there’s a lot of Native American influence in his works. How cool are the woven blanket patterns in the glass?
Because he lost an eye in a motorcycle accident in the 70s, Chihuly has some problems with depth perception. That can be a challenge when your entire career involves creating something 3D, so he started making “drawings” (technically paintings) that show his vision for the glass pieces he wants to create, and his team helps bring them to life.
My favorite drawing involved some blow torch action.
One of his newer endeavors involves painting on glass, then layering multiple pieces on top of each other to create really cool images like the one below:
This display was definitely a crowd favorite:
It was originally commissioned as a holiday window display for Barney’s New York. You can’t hear it in the video, but it uses Clair de Lune as background music.
It’s all clear glass, but the lighting display totally changes the vibe from moment to moment.
There are a couple of pieces on display that you can see even without a ticket to the special exhibition. One is this amazing chandelier, which is located in the main part of the museum:
After the gallery portion of the exhibition, we made our way to the newly remodeled North Forest area outside for “Chihuly in the Forest”.
The first piece you encounter outside is a collection of neon “tumbleweeds”. As you can imagine, all of the outdoor pieces look completely different a the light changes throughout the day!
Just a note: Although there are also awesome hiking-style trails around Crystal Bridges, the path the Chihuly exhibition is set along is paved and pretty flat, and thus totally wheelchair and stroller friendly.
I love how these pieces look in the natural setting! It turns it into some kind of magical fairytale forest.
Can you imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to be in charge of an exhibition where the pieces you’re putting outdoors are all made of glass? There was a hail storm shortly after these went up, but thankfully none were damaged!
The Sun is just absurdly cool.
There are Chihuly Saurday Nights events with live music going on through August that sound really cool, so I’m hoping I can fit in another visit to Bentonville soon to check them out!
Admission to Crystal Bridges Museum is free, but the Chihuly exhibition is $20 unless you have a museum membership. (Which I do now! Woohoo! Members get early access to temporary exhibitions like this one, too.)
You can learn more about the artist and exhibition on the Crystal Bridges website, and check out the #CBChihuly hashtag on Instagram to see more photos from other visitors. There are some REALLY cool ones in there!
Thanks so much to Crystal Bridges for inviting me out to check out the new exhibition before it even opened to the general public, and for making this post possible. wait to visit again next time I’m in Bentonville!