So frivolous and beautiful, dainty yet strong, art glass has a way of tricking us and treating us in equal measure.It comes in so many forms from large glass vases to dainty little art deco perfume bottles, tiny paperweights to massive art installations that run the length of a museum.Blown glass is one of the most hypnotising to watch, as the master artisan turns and blows and spins the new glass ornament and puts it in and out of the furnace to keep it on that knife edge between plasticity and a forlorn blob of mush.Glass ornaments formed like this are a stunning form of handmade glass and real expertise in this art takes many years to learn.Seeing finished tall glass vases in a line on the maker’s workbench gives you the opportunity to connect this beautiful art with the place where it was born – the fiery hole leading to the amber heat behind.The beauty of glass and glass making goes back in time many thousands of years – way before Bohemian Glass was even thought of. That hand blown glass was still in raw materials sat in the Silesian foothills when the first glass was being made.Glass art has a long and prolific history and it has evolved into a modern fairytale that strikes awe in Presidents and Paupers alike.Many a statesman has a fine collection of art glass in their possession and beautiful art glass is often given as gifts by presidents to kings or kings to sheiks.By giving a gift of art glass imbues both the giver and receiver with a decadence that surpasses their elite position. Art Glass transcends labels of state to a level that only old masters and master architects can ever hope to achieve.In comparison to this fine objet d’art a title or a label is nothing, fleeting ethereal. Once that ornament has been forged in the fires of Hades it can never be undone and it will never age. Unlike all the Kings and Presidents, who will only live on, on the lips of their subjects for some or many years to come, depending on how good, or bad they were.Although handmade glass has been put under some pressure by cheap foreign imports, it has held its ground and exerts a force across all the continents.New time you see a beautiful piece of blown glass, remember that journey from chalk, sand, potash and lead into the fiery furnace until finally tuned but the glass artists into a shapely piece of such fine quality that the owner officially becomes an art collector just by having it in their possession.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the UKs great civic institutions. It is a magnificent gothic pile of a building, built from red sandstone around the turn of the twentieth century. It has a truly magnificent situation, at the edge of the lovely hilly Kelvingrove Park, and overlooked by the spiky silhouette of Glasgow University at the top of Gilmorehill.Viewing the Museum from the busy thoroughfare of Argyle Street, the visitor is impressed by the ornate façade, and it comes as a surprise to learn that what you are looking at is actually the back aspect of the building. The even more elaborate front side faces directly onto Kelvingrove Park. There is a persisting apocryphal story that the architect of the building intended it to face onto the road, and when he realised that it had mistakenly been constructed back to front, he leapt to his death in despair from the highest of the towers. That story is still told with relish although it is well known to be untrue. The front of the building was always intended to face the park rather than the road.The building houses a museum whose main features are the collection of arms and armour, and natural history exhibits, as well as an extremely impressive art collection. Formerly the ‘museum’ side of things was shown throughout the open expanse of the ground floor, with the art being housed upstairs. When the museum and gallery closed down for refurbishment between 2003 and 2006, it was decided to mix things up a bit more, since under the old arrangement, many visitors never made it upstairs to see the art. In the new arrangement, rooms featuring either ‘life’ (armour, dinosaurs, etc) or ‘expression (the art) are situated both on the upper and the lower levels, encouraging visitors to expand their horizons.The refurbished gallery with its fresh, clean new look has been very popular with visitors, and indeed it has been described as the most popular free visitor attraction in Scotland, eclipsing even Edinburgh Castle, at least for the time being.The art collection itself contains many gems. Unsurprisingly, many Scottish artists are featured, in particular the Glasgow School and the Scottish Colourists. There is also an interesting exhibit showcasing the Glasgow artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who is perhaps best known for his angular, decorative Art Nouveau interiors. There is also a very fine collection of French impressionists, and Old Masters too, including some Rembrandts.One of the best known pictures in the gallery is the Salvador Dali painting known as ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’. This painting which has inspired love and reverence as well as loathing for its perceived vulgarity, is a brightly coloured work showing Christ crucified, hovering in the heavens and looking down onto the earth. The perspective is looking down from high up, onto the Sea of Galilee. This work is exhibited in a prominent position as befits its fame, or as some would say its notoriety.If Dali is not your taste, you should not be deterred. The gallery has a magnificent collection, one of the finest in the UK, beautifully presented in a lovely location, and entry is completely free of charge.