Best art exhibit: Chihuly


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Glass was the medium of the year as Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass! held true to its promise and venues throughout the city came on board to produce some of the best exhibitions of 2008.

Yesterday I revisited the year overall, including some of those glass exhibitions among many others.

Following are 10 shows that stood out in 2007 within a rich field:

1. 'Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens & Glass'


Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

More a phenomenon than an exhibition per se, it spawned Pittsburgh's year of glass and drove the planning of many of the other exhibitions that made this list. It continues to expose new audiences to art via two versions, by daylight or spotlight. Phipps snagged the kind of major show that generally bypasses Pittsburgh, bringing it to our back yard, while focusing international attention on the city and on the nascent studio glass community growing around the Pittsburgh Glass Center. (Extended by popular demand through Feb. 24.)

2. 'Viva Vetro! Glass Alive! Venice and America'


Carnegie Museum of Art

A visual delight, the exhibition showed the exchange of influence between American and Italian glass artists from the 1940s to the present.

3. 'Modern Japanese Prints, 1868-1989'


Carnegie Museum of Art

A once in a lifetime, sweeping presentation of 230 stunning works, many of them from private local collections.

4. Australian Festival exhibitions


The Warhol, Wood Street, SPACE

The trio of exhibitions spawned by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Australian Festival, viewed together, offered a broad look at art-making on the other side of the globe: "Andy and Oz: Parallel Visions" at The Andy Warhol Museum (continuing through Sunday), "Workin' Down Under" at Wood Street Galleries (through Saturday) and "New Works from Utopia: Paintings by Australian Aboriginal Artists" at SPACE (through Saturday).

5. 'Associated Artists of Pittsburgh: Then and Now'


Carnegie Museum of Art

The lively and sophisticated juried "Associated Artists of Pittsburgh 97th Annual Exhibition" is given historical context by the concurrent survey "Popular Salon of the People: Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annuals, 1910 - 2006," curated for the museum by Vicky A. Clark (both continue through Jan. 21).

6. 'In the Studios of Paris: William Bouguereau & his American Students'


The Frick Art & Historical Center

This painting-rich exhibition not only returned attention to the 19th-century artist who was acclaimed in his day, but presented the accomplished work of a number of heretofore inadequately recognized students.

7. '6 Billion Perps Held Hostage! Artists Address Global Warming'


The Andy Warhol Museum

Timely, even prescient, and brimming with on target creative expression.

8. 'Allure of Japanese Glass'


Pittsburgh Glass Center

The Center's first international exhibition was a treasure house of works by Japanese glass artists, many of whom have had little exposure in the U.S.

9. 'Made in Pennsylvania: A Folk Art Tradition'


Westmoreland Museum of American Art

Guest curators worked with museum staff to assemble this extensive presentation of stoneware, textiles, Fraktur and Soap Hollow furniture.

10. 'India: New Installations, Parts I & II'


Mattress Factory

Nine Indian artists-in-residence created challenging contemporary work in celebration of the North Side museum's 30th anniversary (Part II continues through Jan. 20).


Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas may be reached at mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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