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All eyes are on AFI’s glass prize

Weinstein sculps award with cinema, TV concept

While trying to redefine the notion of honoring achievements in film and television, the American Film Institute has worked with San Francisco glass artist Nikolas Weinstein to put a new spin on the actual award that winners will take home.

Meant to be more a sculpture than a statuette, the award was designed in two components consisting of a smooth rectangular piece of glass and an undulating curtain of 115 individual pieces of glass behind it, which represent a curtain and screen.

“I was trying to get away from it just being one thing. That was a fun aspect of (creating the award),” says Weinstein from his San Francisco studio. “The thing in the back of my head that I definitely didn’t want it to be was part of the trophy case. So many wards have this trophy feel. I wanted to make something that you’d feel more comfortable living with.”

AFI found Weinstein, a sculptor who specializes in glass for both small functional objects and large architectural installations, through a colleague who knew his work. In turn, Weinstein was familiar with AFI and its programs because a friend of his recently finished the director’s track at the conservatory.

Though this is the first award the artist has been commissioned to do, at 33, Weinstein has already worked with the likes of architect Frank Gehry. Through Gehry he was commissioned to complete a 2,500 square-foot three-ton glass installation for the bank building of Berlin. Weinstein has also created pieces for New York’s Conde Nast building and a number of private residences. In 1999, he was selected to design a Bombay Sapphire Gin martini glass.

Weinstein, who was given full artistic license by the AFI, came up with the screen concept because of its clear association with the two principal media that the award honors: cinema and TV. As well as a representation of the screen, the sculpture also touches on the idea of projection using glass as a metaphor.

Another aspect of the award that Weinstein and the AFI liked about the sculpture was that it turned out to be “a nice conceptual allegory for the creative process.” Though unintended, Weinstein says the award also became a loose allegory for the finished project and the dynamic collaborative force that receives the award.

“It’s very symbolic for us and we’re very excited about it, because, first of all, it’s beautiful, and it also reflects the creativity of the people we’re recognizing,” says Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI director and CEO. “And it does represent the character and quality and image we’re tyring to establish with these awards.”

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