Exhibition of Lalique vases enough to make you cry

Making people cry is not normally something we aim to achieve but when it’s because they found an exhibition so beautiful, that’s something to be proud of. On Thursday evening we had the official opening for our René Lalique exhibition, which inspired the tears. This stunning array of vases from the Jack C Richards collection sits in the Nelson Gallery on the mezzanine floor of the museum. Being a gallery flooded with light and with an open airy feel, it’s the perfect place to display glass to the best possible advantage.

René Lalique was initially a famed Parisian jewellery maker in the late 19th Century. He was renowned for his innovative use of non-precious materials alongside the usual gold and diamonds. He began experimenting with glass after becoming frustrated with the constraints of conventional jewellery making, where the size and shape of gems dictated the design. After incorporating glass into his jewellery with great success, he began making small vessels and statuettes in glass and metal. In collaboration with perfumier François Coty he made the first ever bespoke perfume bottle design.

From there Lalique expanded into other glass items including car mascots, light fittings, paperweights, tableware, and even fountains. However his most successful creations were his vases, which made their way into homes all around the world. This exhibition showcases examples of Lalique vases made throughout the entire Art Deco period, from as early as 1913 through until 1935. Showcasing a variety of different design styles you can see Japanese influences, Classical forms, the influence of Aztec and African art – and running through it all is Lalique’s enduring love of the natural world.

The Lalique factory continues to this day and, although no longer owned by the family, it continues to produce items from the original designs by René Lalique. The company, Lalique SA, were very helpful in the development of the exhibition and provided images, information and even video footage to enhance our display. The video of the glass production process is very compelling viewing and was a hit on the night of the opening.

We’re grateful for the continuing support and generosity of the MTG Foundation who have provided funding for new cases used in the exhibition. Most museum visitors probably don’t notice display cases and, ideally, they shouldn’t grab your attention. Over the years I’ve seen many cases that are heavy and dominant in a gallery space. Much like display mounts the very best cases are unobtrusive, letting the objects shine and be the focus. We wanted cases that were light with simple lines and we’re very pleased with the final results.

My greatest thanks go to Jack C Richards for so kindly making his extraordinary collection available. Jack is not only an extensive collector but also an incredibly generous benefactor and patron of the arts: supporting museums, musicians, emerging artists, opera singers and more. He has a strong desire not just to collect but also to share – and how lucky we all are that he has decided to share with us.

Our new(ish) Art Curator, Jessica Mio, has done a great job of distilling an enormous amount of information into intelligent and easy to read labels. This is an exhibition of stunning material presented in a perfect setting and we sincerely hope you will enjoy the experience of visiting the exhibition.

photorapher David Frost

Guests enjoying exhibition opening. Photographer David Frost.


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 13 February 2016


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