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Public Art

Expressions of a culture’s concerns and beliefs through murals, paintings, sculpture and other artistic forms have existed for thousands of years. Artists and communities around the world continue the tradition of erecting monuments to commemorate events and people of importance. Chicago is no exception. Monuments were erected in the city before the city’s incorporation in 1837, a tradition that continues to the present day.

City of Chicago Public Art Program
All photos and descriptions courtesy of the City of Chicago

Untitled (The Picasso)
Cor-Ten steel, H 50 ft.
Richard J. Daley Civic Center Plaza
50 West Washington Street, Chicago
The first monumental modern sculpture to be placed in the Loop, The Picasso was initially greeted with controversy. However, this gift from the artist to the people of Chicago has over time become an icon of the city and a source of civic pride. The Picasso is exemplary of Cubism in its use of multiple perspectives, combining frontal and profile views in a single vantage point.

Installation, 106 metal sculptures, H 9 ft. each
Grant ParkMichigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road, Chicago
“Agora,” a permanent installation by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz, consists of 106 iron cast figures, each about 9 feet tall, shell like, frozen in walking movement. The figures are similar in general shape, but different in details. Models for each figure were made by hand, by the artist and her three assistants. The surfaces of figures are like a tree bark or wrinkled face expressing a different individuality of each sculpture. The figures were cast during two years (2004-2006) in a huge industrial foundry in Srem near the city of Poznan (Poland), then transported to the USA. The installation took place in October–November 2006.

The Four Seasons
Hand-chipped stone and glass fragments,
H 14 ft. x W 10 ft. x L 70 ft.
Bank One Plaza
Dearborn and Monroe Streets, Chicago
Comprised of thousands of inlaid chips in over 250 colors, Marc Chagall’s The Four Seasons portrays six scenes of Chicago using a vocabulary of images informed by the artist’s Russian-Jewish heritage. The design for this mosaic was created in Chagall’s studio in France, transferred onto full-scale panels and then, installed in Chicago with the help of a skilled mosaiciStreet Chagall continued to modify his design after its arrival in Chicago, bringing up-to-date the areas containing the city’s skyline (last seen by the artist 30 years before installation) and adding pieces of native Chicago brick.

Monument with Standing Beast
Fiberglass, H 29 ft.
James R. Thompson Center Plaza
100 West Randolph Street
Jean Dubuffet felt a special affection for Chicago, home to one of his three monumental sculpture commissions in this country. Monument with Standing Beast is comprised of four elements that suggest a standing animal, a tree, a portal and an architectural form. Monument with Standing Beast reflects Dubuffet’s career-long development of his own often brutal, urban style utilizing street language, graffiti and caricature.

Painted steel, H 53 ft.
Federal Center Plaza
Dearborn and Adams Streets, Chicago
Alexander Calder’s abstract “stabile” anchors the large rectangular plaza bordered by three Bauhausstyle federal buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. The sculpture’s vivid color (dubbed “Calder Red”) and curvilinear form contrast dramatically with the angular steel and glass surroundings.

Miro’s Chicago
Steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze and ceramic tile; H 39 ft.
Cook County Administration Building
69 West Washington Street, Chicago
The playfully poetic images of Joan Miró’s art comprise a private mythology derived from the artist’s memories of his homeland in Catalonia, Spain. Using his unique visual symbolism, Miró imbued this sculpture with the mystical presence of an earth deity, both cosmic and worldly. Shapes and forms found in this composition evoke both celestial imagery and common objects. The bell-shaped base draws the viewer’s gaze downward, symbolizing Miró’s association of the female form with the earth. The sphere at center represents the moon while the shape of the face is derived from that of a ceramic hook. The fork projecting from the top of the head is symbolic of a star, with individual tines representing rays of light.

Painted steel and aluminum, H 25 ft.
LaSalle Street at the Chicago River
Conceived by Hubertus von der Goltz as a gateway between the Loop and River North, Crossing symbolizes the delicate balance of the commercial and cultural districts that converge along the LaSalle Street corridor. The figure, which appears to be carefully poised atop the sculpture’s angular structural element, can be seen in silhouette when viewed from north or south. Juxtaposed with the statue of Ceres, above the Board of Trade Building at the south end of LaSalle Street, Crossing also provides a visual comparison between Contemporary and Art Deco styles of art.

BP Bridge
Brushed stainless steel, L 925 ft.
Columbus Drive between Randolph and Madison StreetsDesigned to complement the Pritzker Pavilion in form and function, the stainless steel-clad BP Bridge has the distinction of being the world’s first Frank Gehry designed bridge.

Cloud Gate
Stainless steel, H 33 ft. x W 42 ft. x L 66 ft.
Michigan Avenue between Madison and Monroe StreetsInspired by liquid mercury, the precise form and mirror finish of this extraordinary sculpture by internationally renowned British artist Anish Kapoor were achieved using computer technology to cut, roll and mill 168 plates of one-fourth-inch-thick stainless steel. Weighing over 110 tons, Cloud Gate is one of the world’s largest outdoor installations and Kapoor’s first public, outdoor work installed in the United States.

The Crown Fountain
Black granite, glass brick, LED screens and water; pool
W 48 ft. x L 232 ft. x D .25 in.
two towers, H 50 ft. x W 23 ft. x D 16 ft. (each)
Michigan Avenue between Madison and Monroe Streets.Jaume Plensa’s interactive fountain delights visitors with the sights and sounds of water cascading down the façades of two 50-foot-high glass brick towers at either end of a shallow black granite reflecting pool. The Crown Fountain is animated through a constantly changing exhibition of lights and electronic images. Inspired by the traditional use of gargoyles as water spouts for fountains, Plensa recorded the faces of 1,000 Chicago residents, which are displayed in turn on the towers’ LED screens. A water outlet in each glass screen provides the illusion of water pouring from the mouths of the individuals displayed. The artist intends the collection of images displayed on the LED screens to expand over years to reflect the social evolution of the city.

Being BornStainless steel, H 20 ft.
Intersection of Ontario, Ohio, and Orleans Sts. Located at the Ohio Street exit of the Kennedy Expressway.
Being Born serves as a gateway into Chicago’s downtown. Being Born celebrates both art and technology and pays tribute to the industry that commissioned and fabricated it. Sculptor Virginio Ferrari explains, “The circular element symbolizes the precision and skill of this industry. The two stainless steel elements fit exactly into each other, symbolizing the process of die making.” The openness of the outer circle suggests that the industry continues to grow. Supporting the steel sculpture is a round granite base concealing a water mechanism that releases a continuous flow of water over a central surface that acts as a reflecting pool.

While in Chicago, don’t miss your chance to see some of the world’s greatest works of art.

The Art Institute of Chicago
(French, 1848-1894)Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877
Oil on canvas; 83 1/2 x 108 3/4 in. (212.2 x 276.2 cm)Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcestor Collection, 1964.336

(French, 1859-1891)
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,1884, 1884-86
Oil on canvas; 81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in. (207.5 x 308 cm)Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224

(American, 1891-1942)
American Gothic, 1930
Oil on beaver board; 29 1/4 x 24 5/8 in. (74.3 x 62.4 cm)Friends of American Art Collection, 1930.934

(American, 1882-1967)
Nighthawks, 1942
Oil on canvas; 33 1/8 x 60 in. (84.1 x 152.4 cm)Friends of the American Art Collection, 1942.51

(French, 1840-1926)
Water Lilies, 1906
Oil on canvas; 34 1/2 x 36 1/2 in. (87.6 x 92.7 cm)Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1157

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