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Since the beginning of time, glass has dazzled with its luminosity. Contemporary artists take to the foundry, creating spellbinding works of fragile beauty that are commanding as much attention at auction as they are in museums.

During the passing of many millennia, the ethereal beauty of glass has inspired artists and artisans to form dazzling oeuvres of luminosity. Since the beginning of time it has held our fascination, from gem-inspired vessels of the Bronze Age to ancient Egypt and the beauteous stained glass tableaux from 11th century Germany. Contemporaneously, workshops in Seattle have engendered a wave of glass artists, such as America’s biggest contemporary glass artist, Dale Chihuly. The most famous centers of glass production are Bohemia, which has been producing decorative glass since the 13th century, and, most notably, the small Venetian archipelago of Murano, home of Murano glass, where the factories are still producing its world renowned uniquely blown objets d'art.

At GlassStress, a collateral event currently on show at this year’s Biennale di Venezia, Venetian art impresario Adriano Berengo, invited over 35 modern and contemporary artists – many of whom work outside the realm of glassmaking – to experiment with the material through the context of contemporary art. Louis Bourgeois, Roni Horn and Tony Cragg are just some of the successful names commissioned by Berengo to explore the technical possibilities and restraints of both the material and the synthesis between their creative approach and the glassmaker’s skills.

For the past twenty years, Berengo has welcomed artists into the realm of glassmaking, but he is not the first. Back in the 1950s, Egidio Costantini forged a relationship with leading masters, from Picasso to Jean Arp, through the Centro Studio Pittori nell’Arte del Vetro di Murano. Since then, Venini, Salviati and Pauly CVM have, like Berengo, attempted to take glassmaking beyond the outmoded tradition of craft, elevating it to a high art level. In the US, artists Dale Chihuly and Larry Bell have raised the bar, showing glass in a whole new light.

As artists move in on what has, for the most part, been looked down upon as a craft domain throughout the 20th century so too are prudent collectors on the lookout for new markets for investing. The UK auction house Bonham’s (HYPERLINK : http://www.bonhams.com/) is one of the first auctioneers to tap into the burgeoning trend. Last May, it held its inaugural Modern and Contemporary Glass Auction Sale, the first of its kind in the UK. Prompted by the record-breaking sale of a glass sculpture by the late Czech artist Stanislav Libensky at Bonham’s New York for $400,000, the London-based auction house collaborated with Dan Klein, a world leading authority on contemporary glass. As Mark Oliver, Head of Design for Bonham’s in London notes, « We worked in partnership with Dan Klein associates; (HYPERLINK: www.dankleinglass.com) they helped in getting the sale together for us and talking to the artists. It was a resounding success and it’s definitely something that we feel we want to go forward with.” So much, in fact, that Bonham’s has announced that it will hold a second sale in Spring 2011. Best sellers of the sale were Pietro Fornasetti’s 1940s Cylindrical Vase (£3,600), Stanislav Libensky’s 2003 Queen Vase (£10,800), Toots Zynsky’s 1999 More Tropical Chaos and top of the lots, a 1984 Stonehenge vase by William Morris, which commanded an impressive £13,800. Empyreal and alluring, glass is infused with a magical quality that cannot be found in other materials, invoking emotion and creativity. Glass inspires art.

GlassStress: is showing as a collateral event of the of the 53rd International Art Exhibition from June 6, through November 22, 2009

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