Chicago has a lot of great museums…but when the weather is nice, you might wish you could combine being outside with enjoying art.
Outdoor art not doesn’t cost you a penny to see but you can enjoy the great weather whenever it is happening! We can’t include all of Chicago’s outdoor art in this blog, so we have narrowed it down to ten of our favorites. Get on your walking shoes and let’s take a look at some awesome art:
Stop and smell the roses.
We say stop and enjoy the grandeur of Alexander Calder’s 53-foot sculpture at Federal Plaza titled Flamingo, which is composed of 50 tons of steel. Federal Plaza can get pretty busy with people racing, but pause for a moment and marvel at this fine work of art–and the fact that this flamingo is the only flamingo to survive Chicago’s tumultuous climate for the better part of four decades!
Walk under an icon.
Anish Kapoor called it Cloud Gate; locals call it The Bean. However you refer to the extremely well-polished 168-stainless-steel-plate sculpture at Millennium Park that reflects the city’s skyline, it is sure to capture your imagination, whether you are looking at it or walking under it. You can see clouds, cars, buildings, and people in its reflection depending on the time of day and the angle you view it from. You can decide what it looks like for yourself.
Enjoy the lights.
In the same park as Cloud Gate resides another artistic wonder: Crown Fountain. A black granite reflecting pool and two 50-feet towers of LED screens make up this impressive digital sculpture which displays faces of Chicagoans. The water spouts out of their mouths as it does from gargoyle fountains (though we all agree that Chicagoans are the furthest thing from gargoyles).
Headless is fabulous.
In ancient Greece the agora was the main meeting place of the community. In Grant Park Agora is the meeting place of 106 9-feet tall headless figures! With their heads we estimate they would be comfortably over 10-feet tall. Are they standing still? Are they walking different directions? Up to your interpretation. Remember, you can see them but they can’t see you–they are headless and cast iron after all–so there is no reason to be scared.
Head to the races.
Triple Crown-winner Justify may have ruled over thoroughbred racing this year, but it is San Marco II–the majestic, powerful 9-feet high bronze horse–that has ruled over One Financial Place Plaza since 1986. The gorgeous sculpture by Italian sculptor Ludovico de Luigi literally has everyone (except the headless figures of Grant Park’s Agora of course) looking up with awe at such an impressive example of strength seeming to stride in a graceful motion while of course not moving at all in the fixed position of a sculpture that creates an interesting juxtaposition.
Make up your own title.
We tend to like untitled works in that they are inherently interactive in a way where one’s imagination often jumps towards naming it itself. How might you name Herbert Ferber’s 1972 22-foot tall, Cor-Ten steel sculpture Untitled at the corner of Madison St. and Ogden Ave.? Before you head over, remember to brush your teeth: Ferber was a dentist and the work was commissioned by the American Dental Association.
A beautiful chaos.
Arturo Herrera’s Night Before Last/Chicago is an 8 by 37-foot horizontal mural facing the public entrance of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is a work of movement, with lines zigging and zagging in seemingly every direction. But there is beauty in the chaos. Do you agree? Or do you have another interpretation entirely? Go down to 101 W. Parkway, take a look, and decide for yourself.
Greet the lady in the lake.
The 1871 Great Fire of Chicago left about one-third of the city homeless and devastated much of the city’s wealth and infrastructure. In Milton Horn’s remarkable bronze sculpture, Chicago Rising from the Lake, Chicago is shown recovering in the form of a female figure rising out of Lake Michigan. Take a trip down to Columbus Drive at the Chicago River Esplanade and enjoy this fine work. You will likely feel rejuvenated yourself just as this work is one of rebirth.
Have a moment with the beast.
Monument with Standing Beast does stand at an impressive 29 feet and weigh 10 tons. But this fiberglass masterpiece by French sculpture Jean Dubuffet is a beautiful sculptor and anything but beastly in a derogatory aesthetic sense. It is impressive and has been affectionately renamed by Chicagoans, “Snoopy in a blender.” Go down to James R. Thompson Center Plaza and see if you can see a standing beast–or Snoopy (in a blender).
Appreciate the seasons.
Chicago does have four distinct seasons and the Four Seasons mosaic by Marc Chagall represents the stages of human life through this wonderful 21-foot-long masterpiece in Chase Tower Plaza. This work is comprised of over 250 colors of hand-chipped stone and glass fragments. We thank Chagall for not making us choose between spring, summer, fall, and winter–we like them all!
And there you have it! You have walked through some great outdoor art in Chicago. What was your favorite? (And if we missed your favorite, let us know what it is so we can all go and enjoy it.)