Bright Ideas

During his 50-year career span, renowned American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly has shared his extravagant, large-scale sculptures in both permanent installations and temporary exhibits around the world. It’s possible you’ve seen his awe-inspiring work inside New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or on the ceiling of the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Now through October, the iconic glass sculptor’s magical creations are on display in his first major North Carolina installation at the iconic Biltmore Estate in Asheville.

On any visit to the Biltmore, the first glimpse of the 250-room estate and its sprawling 8,000 acres is enough to rouse immense awe and wonder. Now, upon arrival, the welcome is even more alluring—as Chihuly’s towering cream-colored orb, Sole d’Oro, stands in the center of the front lawn leading to the estate’s entrance. Before making the journey to the front door, you’ll want to spare a few minutes to get an up-close glimpse of this glistening, sun-like Chihuly masterpiece.

Sole d’Oro sets the tone for the remaining 15 sculptures that are a part of Chihuly’s Biltmore exhibit. On the home’s front veranda, blown glass spheres and linear steel sculptures surround its garden fountains and windows, greeting visitors with vibrant shades of blue. Inside, the plant-filled and sun-lit Winter Garden is ornamented with Laguna Torcello II, another fusion of glass and steel in elegant shades of amber and pearl white, evoking visions of the sea and reflecting Chihuly’s love of the “Floating City” of Venice.

Outside in the Italian Garden’s pools, wooden float boats are filled with speckled and striped glass-blown spheres in vibrant, contrasting colors like blue and orange and red and yellow. Magnificent Koi fish swim around the boats and lily pads, infusing the exhibit with organic beauty and splendor. The scene, inspired by Japanese fishing boats, exudes an atmosphere of Zen-like tranquility.

On the walk down to the Biltmore’s Walled Garden—which is a masterwork on its own—reeds in various shades of dark red, bright purple and turquoise guide the way. Inside the Walled Garden, an immense red and yellow piece titled Paintbrush Tower stuns with textured, spiraling arms. After perusing the outdoor rose garden’s paths and perfumed air, you’ll arrive at the Biltmore’s conservatory and its 7,000 feet of gardens under glass. Its exquisite architecture houses an expansive collection of palms, ferns, orchids and other exotic flora that look more like works of art than living plants. Inside the conservatory, three blown-glass amber, citron and teal chandeliers hang below the glass ceiling amongst tall palm fronds.

By reservation only, guests can enjoy Chihuly’s works at night—when the sculptures are illuminated to showcase even more drama against backdrop views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Live music plays throughout the gardens as guests mingle and enjoy Chihuly’s breathtaking sculptures while sipping wine. Chihuly Nights at Biltmore is offered on select evenings through October. For a weekend visit, guests can take advantage of Chihuly-inspired stay packages with The Inn on Biltmore Estate or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate. For more information on special packages, visit