A renowned Seattle glass artist has donated his 400-piece glass art collection to the Tacoma Art Museum.
Paul Marioni, a founder of the studio-glass movement, is giving his collection to the museum because of its long commitment to Northwest art, he said in a statement Tuesday.
“I’ve seen more exhibitions at Tacoma Art Museum than any other museum … I know they will responsibly share these artworks and their history for years to come,” Marioni said.
Though he had previously promised the collection to TAM the museum has just taken possession of the work in time for an exhibit that opens on Saturday.
TAM director Stephanie Stebich called the gift transformative. “We’re trying to build the premier collection of Northwest art and glass is part of that. It’s an important part of the story.”
She calls the gift the “third leg of the stool” in the history of Northwest glass art for the museum. The other two being the world’s most comprehensive collection of art by Dale Chihuly and the promised gift of the Anne Gould Hauberg Collection.
TAM has been collecting glass since the 1970s and gave Tacoma native Chihuly one of his first museum shows in 1971.
The new collection parallels Marioni’s career beginning as a glass blower learning the Venetian tradition and then through the Pilchuck Glass School where he taught from 1974 through 1988. The collection features nearly 100 glass goblets and eight large-scale vessel forms by Marioni.
Marioni’s collection also includes works by internationally recognized artists such as Chihuly, Sonja Blomdahl, Marvin Lipofsky, Flo Perkins, Richard Marquis, Lino Tagliapietra and Cappy Thompson.
“It’s very personal and quirky and reflects the championing of the students that go through Pilchuck,” Stebich said of Marioni’s collection.
The collection hasn’t been appraised yet but Stebich estimates it’s worth north of $1 million. TAM is also purchasing ten works that represents a retrospective survey of Paul Marioni’s career for $100,000.
Including promised gifts TAM’s collection now includes nearly 900 works of art that preserve the history of Northwest glass art. The collection far outpaces the nearby Museum of Glass which only became a collecting museum in 2009 and, unlike TAM, has no endowment.
Why did Marioni choose TAM over MOG, the Seattle Art Museum or other institutions? “He likes the scale of the museum. He’s watched what we’ve done,” Stebich said. “Like Dale, Paul would like to see his art in the context of other Northwest art. You want to live with friends.”
The show opening Saturday at TAM, “The Marioni Family: Radical Experimentation in Glass and Jewelry,” was organized before Tuesday’s announcement. It showcases the art and legacy of Marioni and his children Dante and Marina who also are artists. Some of the work in the show will be part of the recent donation.