Row may shatter world of glass art

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The Independent US

The world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly is embroiled in a bitter legal wrangle after claiming in court that a former employee is ripping off his explosively colourful and lopsided designs.

Chihuly's pieces, often inspired by ocean coral, adorn the ceilings of Las Vegas casinos, cruise liners as well as the homes of the rich and powerful, including Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

His Gardens of Glass exhibition at Kew in west London, which closed earlier this year, attracted nearly one million visitors. But after filing a lawsuit in Seattle against a former assistant, Bryan Rubino, last October, Chihuly now finds himself in a dispute that threatens to shatter his global reputation.

Mr Rubino, who worked as a contractor and an employee of Chihuly for nearly 20 years, has fired back with an aggressive counterclaim. It says, in part, that Chihuly, who lost an eye in a traffic accident three decades ago, is not even directly involved in the creation of many of the pieces that bear his name. As for the alleged copyright violations, Mr Rubino is dismissive.

"Just because he was inspired by the sea that does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art," he said. "If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."