“Treasures of Sand and Fire” is the history of glass told by this collection, today regarded as one of the finest in Europe. This exhibition is the first major panorama of the history of glass since the Art du Verre exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs in 1951. This international dimension goes hand in hand with the particular attention paid to French glassmakers, illustrated by comparisons between ancient and contemporary pieces and production methods. A progression of ornamental pieces, ordinary household objects and artworks will lead the visitor chronologically from the first to the second floor of the exhibition. Each piece also illustrates the tastes of collectors who actively enriched the collection, and highlights the major acquisitions the museum has been making since the 19th century.
Arabo-Islamic pieces such as Mameluke enamelled glass are compared to the creations of Philippe J. Brocard in Paris and the Lobmeyr company in Vienna, alongside the Chinese Qing dynasty glassware that so fascinated Émile Gallé. The exhibition also takes visitors through the history of European glass from the 16th to the 18th century, via donations and bequests by passionate collectors such as Patrice Salin, Madeleine Bougenaux, François Carnot and Madame Fernand Bernard. The modernization of the glass industry in the early 19th century prompted the emergence of French luxury glass and crystal works at centres such as Baccarat. The originality of the “opal crystal” they produced is one of the collection’s keynotes.
Les Arts Décoratifs did much to nurture the blooming and promotion of a new art of glass, and until 1914 amassed a superb collection featuring works by Emile Gallé, René Lalique and François-Eugène Rousseau.
This active acquisitions policy lost impetus after the First World War, but spectacular additions such as the bequest by Monsieur and Madame Barthou, passionate collectors of the glassmakers Maurice Marinot and François Décorchemont, continued to enrich the museum.
One of the rooms on the upper floor explores the history of drinking glasses from 1900 to today. The other rooms on this floor are devoted to French and foreign creation over the last forty years. This period also saw the emergence of new specialised organisations reflecting this new dynamism, such as the founding of the Centre du Verre at Les Arts Décoratifs in 1982 and the Rencontres Internationales du Musée du Verre de Sars Poterie. The exhibition also highlights the generations of artists who have transformed the approach to glass since the 1960s, featuring the recent wave of talented artists with pieces by Stanislav Libensky, Jaroslava Brychtova, Bertil Valien, Richard Meitner, Bernard Dejonghe, Toots Zynsky, Alessandro and Laura de Santillana, Gaetano Pesce, Ettore Sottsass and younger creators such as Damien François, Vanessa Mitrani and Martin Hlubucek. The Centre International de Recherche sur le Verre et les Arts Plastiques in Marseille, and the Centre International d’Art Verrier at Meisenthal, two institutions actively involved in contemporary creation, will be showing recent work by Philippe Parreno (CIRVA), Michel Paysant (CIAV), and David Dubois (CIAV et CIRVA). A history of glass past and present, of taste and of a unique collection, this exhibition explores every facet of this extraordinary material that can take every form and every colour.