Even with some psychedelic ornamentation, bongs tend not to be works of art. They're function over form, if you will, but the newly formed Grey Space Art is hoping to do away with this perception of “functional glass.”
Founded by a 21-year-old who goes by the name Mr. Grey, the Soho-based Grey Art Space recently hosted a showcase that featured a variety of artfully wrought glass bongs and pipes. Ranging in price from $20,000 to $300,000, these pipes put the high in high-end. The showcase featured highly intricate and colorful glass machine guns and fantastical looking aliens, amongst other designs.
The pieces, all part of Mr. Grey’s collection, were put on display during New York Fashion Week, as he tells The Creators Project, “to provide collectors, investors, and discerning buyers” a first look at the cutting edge in functional glass art.
“Fashion week is a pivotal time in NYC for people to see new trends,” Grey says. “I thought it was the perfect time to launch Grey Space Art, where we will be showcasing art that the world has never seen before to a crowd that is already prepared to come in contact with new and innovating things.”
As expected of an event launched during fashion week, aimed at elite bong enthusiasts and investors, the showcase went to great lengths to offer “world class accommodations.” Grey says that he wants the space to be a place where vivid memories are created. To that end, guests entering the space were greeted with a glass of alcohol before being seated on one of Mr. Grey’s chesterfield sofas.
“It is relaxed and personalized, and I greet you as I do all my guests,” Mr. Grey says. “Depending on the time of day you may join me for a cigar or lunch in the garden, and whether or not the work resonates with you, we may end up going down to see the collection room. It is certainly not your average gallery, and I take you through the house and show you some of the sculptures I have collected.”
No surer sign that Grey Space Art is not your average gallery can be found than in pipe makers Banjo and Joe Peters’ Sedna. Priced at $300,000, Sedna is a cybernetic marine-based humanoid wreathed with coral, fish, and sharks.
While it might seem to be a steep price for a bong, even for an elite collector or pothead, Grey says it would be a mistake to assume that these are works of a brand new medium. The artists he selected represent what he says is the highest caliber work in the industry, made by people with over 15 years of experience.
“These artists already fetch very large tickets within their dedicated fan bases,” Grey says. “As these artists move on to larger work, however, two things become apparent. Firstly, that the art they create deserves to be seen by a larger base of art collectors. No matter if these pieces are functional, they are first and foremost glass sculpture. Secondly, the cannabis world won’t be able to continue supporting the top artists as they focus on larger and larger endeavors, and as they continue to push the boundaries on how functional glass art can be seen and appreciated, they will organically make the transition into a market that can support them.”
Sedna and sculptures in the showcase are all handmade with borosilicate glass. This glass differs from classical Murano venetian glass, also known as “soft glass.” While the soft glassblowing known to those familiar with bongs involves large workshops, heavy spools of melting glass, and assistants holding, stretching, and cutting while the master spins the spool on a metal stick, Mr. Grey says that working with borosilicate glass is a much more intimate process. This type of glassblowing is done using a single high-powered torch (and occasionally a small hand torch for welds) as the artist stands directly behind hand-spinning different colored glass rods into the flame.
With such intricate design, the glass blowing for these bongs required careful planning for both the sculptural and functional elements. One sculpture that required a high degree of planning is Joe Peters and Gateson Recko’s Alien Space Lander. In this piece, an alien is outfitted with a pretty psychedelic space suit.
“For most work that I represent, the function is included but it is not often a focus, in the Alien Space Lander, however, it is an integral part,” says Grey. “[It] has a number of tubes that connect the hollow legs to its hollow body and allow water to recycle evenly and continuously as air is pulled from the mouthpiece.”
Sagan Glass’s Hayabusa Satellite also has space as its theme. This bong is, as the title suggests, a glass replica of Japan’s Hayabusa satellite. It is also the third piece in Grey Space Art’s ongoing series of works highlighting the technological achievements of mankind and the advancements that pipe makers have made with glass.
“The Hayabusa spacecraft was built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2003 to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to earth,” Grey explains. “The mission was successful, but not without complications.”
“Glass as a medium for art is not without its complications either—it takes years of study, experience, success, and failure to gain the skills necessary to manipulate glass the way artists do today,” he adds. “Hundreds of hours might be spent on a piece and a single mistake could destroy it in seconds. Some of the best glassblowers in the world are pipe makers. They are pushing the boundaries of what glass is capable of.”
While Grey is trying to target the world of contemporary art, he is not shying away from the fact that all of these works of art are usable, and that there will be collectors who may want to display them and use them. For such collectors, Grey has works of art for them.
“Grey Space will primarily be selling select works on Fancy.com and through social media but if a piece really resonated with you while you came to visit, there can always be a discussion opened about a personal piece as well,” Grey says. “In the future we look to move to other markets around the world. We want people to experience this new medium in a completely novel way, and as time goes on, so will the accommodations, so two visitors will never experience the same thing.”
Click here to see more works at Grey Space Art.