Westbank’s second commission, completed two years after the Palisades’ for neigh-bouring development, the Residences on Georgia, represents a leap in ambition, if not in scale, through the invitation to a leading contemporary craft artist with an international reputation. Dale Chihuly, the renowned Seattle-based glass sculptor whos work is included in over 200 worldwide museum collections to-date, was commissioned in 1998 to create Persian Wall, an ornamental installation of blown glass sculptural forms situated outside the building’s front entrance.
The work is made up of a large series of glass discs that are part of the ongoing and much larger “Persian Series” that Chihuly has been engaged in since the early 1990’s. The glass plate forms are small, densely decorated and organically shaped, with the artist’s consummate mastery of colour and pattern on full display. Mounting the decorative and atmospheric Persian Wall as public art posed a more difficult question, particularly the logistics of installing and displaying something so delicate in an unguarded, exterior context. The solution is a housing of tempered glass that provides a permanent protective enclosure. This cabinet guards Chihuly’s glass art from damage, but in doing so necessarily asserts its own particular sculptural presence, and subtly complicates the question of where the artist’s work begins and ends. This dialogue – between ethereal glass sculpture and thick plate glass housing – raises the ongoing question, not limited to this context, of how and in what way Chihuly’s delicate craftwork is best appreciated.