Artists who work in glass seem to me not always to get the recognition they deserve. Ceramicists such as Edmund de Waal and Rupert Spira are, comparatively speaking, all the rage, almost household names.
Recently, however, artists in glass have started to have a bit of a moment. Janice Blackburn, in one of her small but very influential shows at London’s Sotheby’s, featured the work of Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk for the wonderful Berengo Studio on Murano in Venice. She had introduced them to Adriano Berengo, who immediately asked them to produce work. Given free rein, they came up with some gorgeously fantastical glass creations, shimmering with gold – all of them limited-edition objects of great beauty and works of art.
But they were just part of a new tradition of collaborations between Berengo Studio and internationally recognised artists, a venture designed to inspire painters, sculptors and installation artists to try a new medium. Berengo Studio’s bread and butter, so to speak, is studio glass – lovely, practical and commercial, but not what you’d call art. Under its Venice Projects umbrella, Adriano Berengo does something quite different – he asks artists to explore the artistic possibilities of glass. When the first Glastress exhibition, featuring work by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg, Fred Wilson, Tony Cragg, Jan Fabre and Marya Kazoun was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2009, it created something of an international sensation.
Lined up for the next Venice Biennale (from June 4 to November 27 this year) will be works by some of the same artists, as well as pieces by Zhang Huan, Koen Vanmechelen, Erwin Wurm and others. But not all of us can get there, so it’s worth knowing that several galleries sell the work of some of Berengo Studio’s artists. London’s Marlborough Gallery sells pieces by Charlotte Hodes, who creates beautiful vessel-cum-sculptures. Her striking Silhouette figures set into a glass block (second picture, £3,500) are as desirable as any painting. The Collier & Dobson Gallery in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, retails work by Luigi Benzoni (powerful, almost elemental “glass faces” for about £6,800) and Silvio Vigliaturo, whose sought-after, colourful pieces sell from £3,800 upwards (influences of Picasso and Matisse are evident).
But while Berengo Studio’s artists are pushing out the frontiers, the Contemporary Applied Arts gallery in London always has beautiful pieces by artists such as Philippa Beveridge (amazing glass purses from £620), while Peter Layton’s wonderful vessels, bowls and vases can be found at The Glass Art Gallery (first picture, items from his Green Lagoon series); you can buy a piece of his work for around £200.