As noted in the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet, the nineteenth-century paperweights that comprise the bulk of the Arthur Rubloff Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago can be divisive, as two separate journalists questioned the exhibition’s value and revealed their ignorance about decorative arts in the process. But for devotees of the form past and present , which include President Clinton, King Farouk, Eva Peron, Colette and Truman Capote, the worlds encased within solid glass are an unquestioned source of inspiration, meditation and expression. Now, with the imminent unveiling of the expanded paperweight gallery at the Art Institute this September, the number of works on display will increase from 341 to over 800 and will include a donation from paperweight artist Paul Stankard, titled Honey Bee Swarm with Flowers and Fruit (2012) which will be one of the largest works in the collection at a diameter of 6 inches.
In the same way that these paperweights illustrate a history of the form, Stankard can trace his own artistic progression within his fifty-odd pieces in the collection. In an interview with the Hot Sheet, Stankard said, “I wanted to sculpt something spectacular for the collection… my most mature and ambitious effort, to show the distance I have traveled from the 1970s into the most recent piece.”
Stankard had more to say on the display history of the collection itself. ”It’s interesting to me that [Christopher] Monkhouse [curator at ArtIC since 2007] has taken a special interest in that collection,” he said. “It first was … prominently displayed when Arthur was alive. When he died they put it in the lower level.”
Regarding the decision to revisit the collection, Monkhouse told the Hot Sheet it was his “responsibility as department chair of European Decorative Arts to see that the depth and breadth of Arthur Rubloff’s collecting was on display.” He said that its revival was possible in part thanks to funds from the International Paperweight Society Foundation and L. H. Selman, Ltd., as well as aid from the family of Wes Clark. The reset exhibition will feature eight new cases designed by ArtIC’s in-house designer Yau-mu Huang, as well as a floor case that will feature more contemporary work produced since Rubloff’s death in 1986.