With hundreds of creations by international luminaries ranging from Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso to Louise Bourgeois and Jaume Plensa, Chicago boasts one of the finest and most varied collections of public art in the world.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have designated 2017 the Year of Public Art, with a series of exhibitions, tours and other happenings to mark the event. Among them will be the 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project, in which as much as $1 million will be spent on new public artworks in the city’s 50 wards.
To help launch this yearlong celebration, the Sun-Times asked five of city’s top art professionals to select their favorite public artworks in Chicago:
Pablo Picasso, “Untitled,” known as “The Picasso,” 1967, COR-TEN steel, Richard J. Daley Civic Center Plaza, 50 W. Washington.
Beyond the ways and means of developing and producing the Chicago Picasso was the insight that something that began as a piece of work personal to an artist could become a grand enhancement of a civic space, a three-dimensional expression of the city’s cultural ambition. The Chicago Picasso could stand tall in the Civic Center (now Daley Plaza) and be itself, unlike a work that preserves the likeness of someone revered in the community or commemorates or celebrates community history, joys or sorrows. The Chicago Picasso allows us to discover something of ourselves in it, to play on it, to put a wreath on it, to enjoy the sculpture and the public space it enhances into the future. —Richard Hunt, an internationally known Chicago sculptor who followed the work’s realization as a young artist
Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, “La Tormenta (The Storm),” cast fiberglass and titanium alloy foil, 2006, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services District Headquarters, 101 W. Congress.
The work’s two hanging sculptural elements evoke the contours of clouds from a powerful 2002 storm and serve as metaphors for the historical waves of immigration into the United States.
The piece took my breath away the first time I saw it. It’s ethereal and heavy at the same time and is even more striking because of its location. It’s exciting to have a really interesting contemporary art piece by a Chicago artist in an otherwise institutional federal building and meaningful to have this particular piece in a building where people come toward their path to citizenship. The piece feels even more poignant now, given the political climate around immigration nationally and Chicago’s recent declaration of remaining a sanctuary city. —Kate Lorenz, executive director, Hyde Park Art Center
Marcel François Loyau, Clarence Buckingham Fountain, Georgia pink marble and bronze, 1927, Grant Park, east of Columbus Drive at the head of Congress Parkway.
Kate Buckingham, a major cultural philanthropist, donated more than 400 Chinese bronzes to the Art Institute of Chicago between 1921 and 1938, works that form the foundation of the museum’s Asian collection. She is best known for commissioning the $750,000 Buckingham Fountain, a memorial to her brother, Clarence, and establishing a trust fund to maintain it.
It’s so grand. I don’t know if it’s still the biggest public fountain in the world, but it’s one of the biggest. It was funded by Kate Buckingham, and if you come to the Art Institute, the Asian art collection is built on her gift. She was the biggest donor. I’m new to Chicago, and because I know the collection first, then I went to look at the fountain. It’s a slightly reverse way. Most people would know the fountain, but they don’t know the Asian art collection at the Art Institute. —Tao Wang, chair and curator of Asian art, Art Institute of Chicago
Hector Duarte, “Gulliver in Wonderland,”2005, mural, Hector Duarte home and studio, 1900 W. Cullerton.
The 3,000-square-foot work covers three sides of the Mexican-born muralist’s studio and home.
Perhaps as a sign of the times, Hector’s piece really speaks loudly about immigration, about my community here in Chicago and basically about the make-up of this city and this country. There was a time when Hector was playing with the idea of Gulliver, this foreigner, this man who suddenly wakes up in another land, in a place that is very different from where he came from. Duarte connected the immigrant’s dream and the immigrant waking up in a foreign land with Gulliver, and I thought that was just such a clever idea. —Cesáreo Moreno, chief curator and visual director, National Museum of Mexican Art
Tony Tasset, “Artists Monument,” 2014, etched acrylic panels over steel, Grant Park from February through October 2016.
The work will be installed on the UIC campus this spring,placed on what is known as Harrison Field, near the intersection of Halsted Avenue and Harrison Street.
Yes, of course, Tasset is my husband, but still it does not change the fact that it is a great work of art. It was recently on view in Grant Park [in 2016] and was purchased by UIC where is awaits permanent installation. The sculpture is a polychrome monolith. It looks a bit like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (similar shape), and it’s covered with the names of over 300,000 artists in alphabetical order. The names come from a database that ranks artists in order of importance based on sales. Putting the artists’ names in alphabetical order levels the hierarchy. The polychrome and horizontality also support the idea of flattening the hierarchy. The ‘Artists Monument’ acknowledges all artists’ contribution to culture. —Judy Ledgerwood, Alice Welsh Skilling Professor of Art, Northwestern University
Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer.