When you think of Chicago, what comes to mind? For me, it’s the Bulls, deep-dish pizza, and that giant reflective bean thing in Millennium Park. But guess what? The public art piece Cloud Gate (aka ‘The Bean’)is going to be out of commission for a while, so we’ll have to find some new spots to take pics for the ‘gram and solidify our memories of Chicago.
Luckily, there are plenty of other cool art pieces around downtown and all over the city that are just waiting to be shared. Check out my favorites!
Why is ‘The Bean’ Under Construction?
The Cloud Gate (aka ‘The Bean’) is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above. It is the British artist Anish Kapoor’s first public outdoor work installed in the United States, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected from a variety of perspectives.
Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66 feet long by 33 feet high. The ‘Bean’ sits on Grainger Plaza located in Millennium Park and has done so for over 17 years. With millions of hands touching, holding, and even attempting to climb the structure and the surrounding space, a bit of an upgrade is certainly warranted.
According to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Events website, construction on Grainger Plaza surrounding Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park has begun and will continue through the spring of 2024. “During this time, public access and views of Cloud Gate will be limited. This necessary maintenance by the City of Chicago will replace pavers and make other repairs and accessibility upgrades to the plaza—to enhance the nearly 20-year-old park’s appearance, visitor experience, and position as the #1 attraction in the Midwest.”
Public Art in Chicago
Even though ‘The Bean’ is inaccessible, visitors and locals can still admire public art around the city of Chicago. Through the Chicago Public Art Collection. The collection includes more than 500 works of art exhibited in over 150 municipal and outdoor facilities around the city by professional artists.
Agora Big Feet
1135 S Michigan Ave. | Grant Park
“The Picasso” (Untitled sculpture)
50 W. Washington St. | Daley Plaza
The Chicago Picasso was commissioned in 1963 by the architects of the Richard J. Daley Center to anchor the plaza on the east side of the building. Picasso worked on this commission for two years, combining and modifying sketches and motifs from some of his earlier works in the design of the sculpture. This resulted in a 42-inch tall maquette, or model, of the sculpture. Both the maquette and sketches of the sculpture may be seen today at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Monument to the Great Northern Migration
345 E Eastgate Pl. | Bronzeville
Monument to the Great Northern Migration is a sculpture that serves as a welcome to the South Side and a historic reminder of thousands of African-Amerian who migrated from the South to Chicago. Crafted by African-American, woman artist Alison Saar, the bronze figure is a testament that shows a traveler’s hand raised in salutation to his new home.
On the other hand, he carries a worn suitcase symbolic of his journey, dreams, and talents. The bollards surrounding the monument are also suitcases that are textured with a pattern derived from the tin ceilings of the era. The figure is oriented to the north, symbolizing the traveler’s destination.
Fountain of Time
6000 S Cottage Grove Ave. | Woodlawn
201 E Randolph St. | Millennium Park
Crown Fountain in Millennium Park consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.
The fountain’s water features operate during the year between mid-spring and mid-fall, while the images remain on view year-round.
Monument with Standing Beast
100 W. Randolph St. | The Loop
March Chagalls Four Seasons
Composed of thousands of inlaid chips in over 250 colors, Marc Chagall’s mosaic artwork The Four Seasons portrays six scenes of Chicago. It features a vocabulary of images informed by the artist’s Russian-Jewish heritage and found in his Surrealist paintings such as birds, fish, flowers, suns, and pairs of lovers. Chagall maintained, “The seasons represent human life, both physical and spiritual, at its different ages.”
Chagall continued to modify his design after it arrived 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. You can view more work by this artist at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Other Things to See and Do in Millenium Park
Millenium Park is a vibrant hub of entertainment and culture, offering a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. While the ‘Bean’, may have limited access, there are numerous other exciting attractions and events that make this park a must-visit destination.
One of the highlights of Millenium Park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a stunning outdoor concert venue. This iconic structure hosts a variety of musical performances ranging from classical music to contemporary artists, providing visitors with a unique and memorable experience.
If you’re visiting with children, be sure to check out Maggie Daley Park, located right next to Millenium Park. This expansive playground offers endless fun with its climbing walls, slides, and a unique skating ribbon during the winter months.
Millenium Park is not just a green oasis in the heart of the city, but a cultural hotspot that celebrates art, music, and recreation. Whether you’re a local looking for a peaceful escape or a tourist seeking an unforgettable experience, Millenium Park has something for everyone.
For more information and to plan your visit, please visit the official website of Millenium Park.