Artist Dale Chihuly, Biltmore crews provide a rare look at the exhibit’s layout – cialisdfr
Artist Dale Chihuly, Biltmore crews provide a rare look at the exhibit’s layout
Artist Dale Chihuly, Biltmore crews provide a rare look at the exhibit’s layout

ASHEVILLE – The collection of famous American artist Dale Chihuly has arrived in Asheville and everyone is ready to prepare the special exhibition “Chihuly at the Biltmore” before the public debut on March 25 at the Biltmore Estate.

On March 20, the Biltmore and Chihuly Studio teams offered a rare behind-the-scenes look at the extensive installation process of “Chihuly at Biltmore,” which runs March 25-Jan. 5 in Amherst in Deerpark at the historic George Vanderbilt Mansion.

Travis Tatham, the Biltmore’s director of entertainment and destination events, said the exhibit will allow guests to see a range of Chihuly’s techniques and works from his 60-year career.

“Chihuly is a world-renowned glass artist and one of the leaders in setting the standard for glass,” Tatum said.

Installation cooperation

Chihuly, revered for his large-scale architectural installations and revolutionizing studio glass, has works of art in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. “Chihuly at Biltmore” will feature a variety of artistic styles and never-before-seen original works.

In 2018, the Biltmore hosted an outdoor exhibition of the artist’s work on the Biltmore House lawn, gardens and Antler Hill Village.

Chihuly at the Biltmore, a museum-style exhibit, allowed the artist’s team to bring objects into the mansion that they couldn’t before. The new, specially prepared exhibition will be unique and completely different from what has been seen before.

Kaylee Ellis, Chihuly Exhibitions Project Manager, said “Chihuly at the Biltmore” has been more than a year in the making, and the seven-gallery exhibit was built from scratch in Amherst.

“The walls have been created for this exhibit and we’ve been working for over a week now and we’ve got a few days left, so the process is about two weeks,” Ellis said.

Seven members of Chihuly’s team and a rotating team of three Biltmore staff were involved in setting up the exhibition.

“It’s multiple galleries and a mix of large-scale and pedestal works and drawings, so you get a great insight into Chihuly’s career from those early days when he started with this series of works with baskets and cylinders to move into larger-scale sculptures that are site-specific, and you’ll see a number of examples of those here,” Ellis said.

The main exhibit will be in Amherst with several additional exhibits scattered around the estate, including outside Biltmore House and Antler Hill Village and Chihuly’s Gold and Garnet Chandelier from the estate’s permanent collection, which is currently on display at Biltmore Winery.

Curating a collection

Prior to opening day, multiple team members worked to install a large-scale drawing panel by panel to cover the gallery wall.

Pieces from the artist’s series of soft cylinders, created from around 2011 to 2015, will be displayed on pedestals.

Ellis said a newly composed piece for the Biltmore will include a piece featuring neodymium reeds and neon on Sycamore logs obtained from the estate with the help of the Biltmore Horticulture Team.

Ellis, who worked on Dale Chihuly’s team for nine years, said the curation process began with a series of technical drawings that illustrated what elements were needed, which were communicated to the Biltmore team.

Chihuly was an integral part of curating the exhibition from the early design phases.

“We have an exhibition team that does a pre-site visit and then all of these images from that organization, whether it’s a garden or a museum, all of those images come back and the team sits down with Dale to figure out what they envision for the space,” Ellis said .

Tatum said several Biltmore staff visited Chihuly’s studio to deliberately select pieces that were significantly different from the 2018 exhibit.

Ellis said the packing process takes a year and the pieces are transported from Seattle to Asheville. The artwork arrived in four 53-foot trailers, unloaded and placed in the gallery and through the estate.

“One of my favorite parts about working with the exhibitions is primarily the teams we work with,” Ellis said. “The Biltmore is a great example – they’re fantastic – and there’s this love of artwork and they’re incredibly supportive. You get so much energy around the exhibition. And then the fact that it never feels the same. You are constantly changing what is seen.”

Follow the Citizen Times for coverage on the opening day of “Chihuly at Biltmore.”

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Tiana Kennell is a food and nutrition reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at or follow her on Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this type of journalism with a a subscription to the Citizen Times.

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