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Insights: Indulgences

Matt Kramer
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 2)

Only now, says Traver, has Tagliapietra established his own studio on Murano. "It's taken him a long time to arrange that," he adds, noting the resentments of Tagliapietra's colleagues on the island. "But now he's seen as the prodigal son returning."

For collectors of Tagliapietra's works, this is the golden era. "Right now he's doing some of his best works," says Traver. You'd expect a gallery owner to say that. But the same sentiment is echoed by Lockwood. "His present work is absolutely fantastic," he says.

One of the elements that make Tagliapietra so exceptional is that, unlike many art-glass sculptors, the hand of the master is attached to Tagliapietra's works. He does the glassblowing himself. Many other glass artists are simply designers. They lack Tagliapietra's technical proficiency. It's the difference between owning something Rembrandt himself painted compared to a sketched "cartoon" that students in his school painted in for him. With Tagliapietra, you get the master himself.

What are Tagliapietra's choicest works? Everyone agrees that they're those pieces that display the classic Murano glassblowing techniques, such as complex filigree patterns combined with surface cutting applied to elongated or swollen shapes. It is what makes Tagliapietra's designs so distinctive.

Not surprisingly, this comes at a price. Current Tagliapietra sculptures typically sell for between $15,000 and $45,000.

True to his Murano sensibilities, virtually everything he makes employs dazzling colors. He was, however, invited in 1998 by Steuben Glass Works to create sculptures using its clear, bright white lead crystal. These pieces have their own subtle impact, like seeing the black-and-white version of a color photograph.

Tagliapietra's works appear regularly in galleries around the United States, as well as in Europe and Japan. You can see his works in New York at the Heller Gallery; in Seattle at William Traver Gallery; in Chicago at Portia Gallery and in Pontiac, Michigan, and Boca Raton, Florida, at Habatat Galleries, among other places.

Worth visiting is the twice-a-year SOFA show (International Exhibition of Sculpture Objects & Functional Art), which alternates between New York and Chicago. Tagliapietra pieces are always on display. If you get to Venice itself, Galleria Marina Barovier is the place to go.

"The overwhelming effect of these pieces on a receptive viewer can be compared to facing a meal comprised of nonstop courses, each more ravishing than the next," observes Susanne Frantz in Tagliapietra: A Venetian Glass Maestro (Vitrum, 1998). "The food is so delicious that one cannot resist eating; nevertheless, you hope that the chef will stop cooking before you die of pleasure. Tagliapietra's glass is that rich and that good."

Lockwood puts it more prosaically: "If you buy one, you're going to want more. You always end up wanting more."

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