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Mingei installs Chihuly sculpture over its stairwell

More than 10 feet tall with 498 separate pieces of glass, Dale Chihuly’s Enlightenment is a spectacular sight. The Mingei International Museum is installing the sculpture over its center stairwell this weekend.


Part of the museum’s permanent collection, the chandelier-esque piece has gone from one grand staircase to another. It starred in the Mingei’s Escondido location for six years until that gallery closed in 2010.

I asked Mingei's Director Rob Sidner about the decision to place this piece front-and-center, and its connection to the museum's mission.

“We often say that our museum shows folk art, craft, and design, generally focused on objects of use. The purest form of mingei is always things that have been made for use but we have some things in our collection that are not necessarily utilitarian.

“Niki de Saint Phalle’s angel is one of those, and also this chandelier  – which is at the height of contemporary craftwork. We’re thrilled to have it in our collection.”

Mingei has a dozen objects in its collection from the prolific glass designer. Ten of the Chihuly objects are currently on view in the galleries. Upstairs are eight colorful glass vessels from Chihuly’s Macchia series. Two other pieces are in the "True Blue" exhibition that's open through Feb. 17.


Once all the white, gold, and clear pieces of glass are assembled in the steel armature as Sidner described, “like a Medusa’s head of hair,” Enlightenment will weigh about a ton.



Visitors are welcome to stop by the museum this weekend to watch the team from Seattle continue the installation. Philanthropic support for the installation came from the Legler Benbough Foundation and Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

On Friday, March 8, Sidner will present a lunchtime talk about Enlightenment (free with general museum admission). 


-- Maren Dougherty