In July 1999, a unique, large scale exhibition by leading glass artist Dale Chihuly opened in the Tower of David Museum. The exhibition, which was built specifically for the Museum on the eve of the Millennium, was the largest that Chihuly had ever produced. The artist’s monumental glass sculptures were placed throughout the Citadel. They merged with the unique architectural structure of the site, the walls and turrets and changed Jerusalem’s skyline. The exhibition was a tribute to Jerusalem 2000 years after the first glass was blown in the city, a time when glass was considered an expensive material – “Gold and glass cannot equal it” (Job, 28, 17).
In order to build the exhibition, which was complex in terms of structure, size and scope, 10,000 pieces of glass were transported in 12 shipping containers from Japan, the United States and Finland. Thirty assistants, including glass blowers, engineers and a technical team, arrived in Israel with Chihuly, and together with a large local team, built the exhibition over a number of weeks. Engineers along with expert climbers mounted the glass works on huge iron constructions built around the citadel in a complex operation.
Chihuly, whose work challenges the limitations of matter and is celebrated internationally, receives his inspiration from nature and the environment. In his previous projects around the world, he integrated his giant sculptures into flowing rivers, forests, blossoming fields and the architecture of ancient buildings.
The exhibit was an unparalleled success and received extensive press coverage. A world record 1, 300,000 visitors visited the exhibit during the year it ran – an unprecedented number of visits to an exhibition both in Israel and around the world.
While the exhibition was running, special events and activities took place in the museum, including a meeting between Dale Chihuly and local artists, curators and art collectors; and the immense “Wall of Ice” project in which 64 tons of ice shipped to Jerusalem from Alaska were transformed into a great new Jerusalem wall which was to melt at the foot of the Museum and the Old City wall.