Splendor On The Ceiling SAMA Chihuly   |   San Antonio, Texas

Persian Ceiling is a permanent site-specific ceiling installation by the renowned American glass artist Dale Chihuly.  Housed in a display case designed by Overland, the installation is attached to the ceiling of a passageway between the museum’s Great Hall and the Cowden Gallery, the primary gallery for special exhibitions.

From Temporary To Permament
When originally displayed as a temporary installation, Dale Chihuly’s  Persian Ceiling was so popular that museum generous donor offered to acquire it for the museum’s permanent collection.  A complicated installation made up of hundreds of hand-blown glass objects and intended to be mounted to a ceiling and viewed from below, the work presented the museum with several challenges when they decided to exhibit and preserve it on an ongoing basis. Where would they install it? How would they prevent the glass from cracking, breaking, or overheating.
Gaze Upward And Be Dazzled
Once the museum decided that the most suitable available space was the ceiling of a narrow passageway between the museum’s central atrium and its main special exhibitions gallery, Overland was called in to solve the numerous technical challenges.  Because the objects are extremely heavy and are intended to be stacked individually, a secure support system was needed that would bear the work’s weight while protecting it from heat from the internal HVAC system designed specifically for the display.

Overland’s solution was to install the work within a suspended cube tied into the existing structural system as well as to its own air supply system, which prevents the glass and the lamps that light them from overheating. While delicate in appearance, the cubic container is framed using a grid system that offers solid structural support for the weighty glass objects without obscuring our view of them. The tempered laminated glass was the first time this system was formally approved as a support system.

Because colored glass can look other-worldly when properly illuminated, a two-part lighting system was employed. Backlighting was used to ensure that the work is evenly lit throughout, while additional spotlights create sparkling accents.

According to David S. Rubin, the museum’s former Curator of Contemporary Art, “Museum docents consider Persian Ceiling to be a favorite work for introducing contemporary art to school children.  It is not uncommon to see the children lying on their backs looking upward as the docents educate them about this extraordinary sculptural installation.”