Shiny, Cold, and Beautiful

Now the Lowe Art Museum has a heart of glass.

When New Times asked Miami philanthropist Myrna Palley what inspired her to purchase art, she gave a deliciously lofty and whimsical reply. “How do I know which piece to buy? I just know. I have to have it. It’s just something I want. Like, how do you know what you want for lunch, or what dress you want to wear?” Clearly, the lady’s got instincts. Together with her husband Sheldon, she has built one of the nation’s most impressive collections of glass art. And now, the couple has given the fruits of more than 30 years of collecting to their alma mater. The 300 or so pieces of art donated to the University of Miami are worth more than $3 million. To house this glittering, awe-inspiring collection, the generous alumni donated $1.7 million to build the Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts at the Lowe Art Museum. The beauty of the collection can even be seen plainly from the front window — a revolving prism chandelier by Jon Kuhn greets passers-by as they cruise down the palm-lined street near the university’s main entrance.

The Palleys have helped to elevate glass-work from craft to fine art. To admirers of the art form, the names Howard Ben Tre, Jose Chardiet, Dan Dailey, and of course Dale Chihuly are regarded as rapturously as Picasso or Matisse. Pieces by all of these artists are on proud display; they’ve been selected to show the evolution and range of their craft. There are molded pieces, blown glass, and work assembled by many; for example, Hank Murta Adams’ blown glass wheel was created by so many students that their names fill the wall behind the piece. And it isn’t only glass — there are also clay sculptures by late University of Miami professor Christine Federichi, fiber art by Ken Uyemura, and multi-element installations by William Morris, among others. The intention of the Palley Pavilion is to add enrichment to the lives of students while enhancing university education. But it ain’t a bad way for a regular art lover to while away an early afternoon, in the hours when sunlight still glimmers through the windows, catching light on almost everything in the room.
Wed., Dec. 17, 2008

 
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