Thousands of donations over the course of just three months have helped the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, acquire the 42-foot-tall Lime Green Icicle Tower, a monumental glass sculpture by renowned artist Dale Chihuly.
Over $1 million was raised since the museum launched a public appeal on July 18 to keep the sculpture.
The tower was specifically created for the MFA's Shapiro Family Courtyard, where it has resided since March, and served as a coloful and dramatic focal point for the vast new space. It was also a favorite piece among Chihuly’s dazzling creations included in the popular exhibition Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass, on view this spring and summer at the MFA.
Thousands of gifts, small and large, were given by first-time visitors and long-time friends, ranging from piggy-bank savings brought in by children, to checks written by adults.
Major donors were led by the Donald Saunders and Liv Ullmann Family of Boston. Donald Saunders is a Boston real estate developer and Liv Ullmann is an actress and director who also serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
“Delighted visitors to Chihuly did not want the show to end, and were particularly enthusiastic about the signature piece created by Chihuly for the Shapiro Family Courtyard,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “I was approached time and again by people offering to donate funds for its acquisition. Since July, we have been raising money to keep the tower. Some of our friends have written checks, and others have made donations through contribution boxes and our first-ever mobile-giving initiative. The support has been tremendous and I am delighted by how this appeal has caught the imagination of the public.”
The dramatic Lime Green Icicle Tower sculpture weighs some 10,000 pounds and comprises 2,342 pieces of hand-blown green glass spikes that form a tree-like shape. It was one of 12 installations featured in Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass—nine displayed in the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery and three (including the tower) in the Shapiro Family Courtyard. On view at the MFA from April through August, the popular exhibition was supported by the Highland Street Foundation and offered a retrospective look at the work of one of the world’s leading glass artists. It drew more than 372,000 visitors, making it the fifth best-attended show in the Museum’s history.
,This is the third time that the MFA has made a major public appeal to acquire a work of art. The first was when the Museum hoped to acquire Paul Revere’s Son’s of Liberty Bowl (1768) in the late 1940s, when more than 700 donations, large and small, came in from the public and schoolchildren, allowing the MFA to acquire this historic work of art in 1949. The second time was in 1979-80, when the Boston Athenaeum decided to sell its iconic Gilbert Stuart portraits of George and Martha Washington (both painted in 1796)—on loan to the MFA since 1876. In 1979, a public campaign was launched in Boston to retain the paintings and, as a result, the MFA and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery came to an agreement to share ownership of the paintings that has enabled each institution to put the works on view for three years on a rotating basis.