Top 10 Best Public Arts in Chicago

Nguyen Kieu Trang 5 0 Error

The public works of art in Chicago were created by some of the world’s most famous artists in the last century including Picasso, Calder, Miró, and Chagall. ... read more...

  1. Installed in 1918, the Statue of the Republic commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park and the centennial of statehood for Illinois. The Statue of The Republic is a 24-foot sculpture in Chicago’s Jackson Park designed by Daniel Chester French who also designed the iconic Abraham Lincoln statue in Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial. An even larger version of this glorious gilded bronze sculpture was originally installed to act as the centerpiece of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago and was the second tallest statue in the U.S., only to the Statue of Liberty, before it was destroyed in a fire.

    The statue that you see today is a smaller version of Daniel Chester French’s original and was erected in 1918 to commemorate the 25-year anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Designated a Chicago Landmark on June 4, 2003, ‘The Statue of The Republic’ is often referred to as the “Golden Lady” and has become a treasure Chicago sculpture.

    • Founded: 1918
    • Designer: Daniel Chester French
    • Google rating: 4.6/5.0
    • Address: 6401 S Stony Is Ave, Chicago, IL 60637

  2. In the center of the city, the Bean is one of the best public arts in Chicago that you shouldn't miss. One of the largest permanent outdoor art installations in the world, the sculpture's official name is Cloud Gate. After its 2004 unveiling, the enormous piece quickly rose to fame as one of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks. The lakefront park in Chicago's downtown Loop, Millennium Park, is home to the Cloud Gate. It is located directly behind the Park Grill restaurant at 11 N. Michigan Ave., above the McCormick Tribune Plaza. You really can't miss it if you're strolling down Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe.

    This work of public art is entirely constructed out of stainless steel. It was made by precisely cutting 168 large steel plates using computer technology, fitting them together, and then welding them shut for a seamless appearance. It is constructed from a network of two sizable metal rings inside. A truss framework, akin to what you might see on a bridge, connects the rings.

    Due to the sculpture's massive weight being directed to its two base points, the iconic "bean" shape and the sizeable concave area beneath the structure are both made possible. Steel connectors that are flexible allow the Cloud Gate's exterior to expand and contract in response to changes in the weather.

    • Founded: 2006
    • Designer: Anish Kapoor
    • Google rating: 4.8/5.0
    • Address: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602
  3. The Chicago Picasso, which stands 50 feet tall and weighs more than 160 tons, is much more to Chicagoans than just a piece of art. The untitled Picasso sculpture that originally sparked controversy in the city has now become one of Chicago’s most famous sculptures and beloved icons.

    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. The majority of public art in major cities at this time was serene and solemn, primarily featuring historical figures. However, in the 1960s, American city architecture started to reflect the numerous cultural and modern changes that were occurring across the nation. The Daley Center’s architects decided to commission the renowned Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, to create a monumental sculpture for their plaza.

    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.

    The Chicago Picasso is built of Cor-Ten steel, the same material as the exterior of the Daley Center, and was assembled not far from Chicago at the U.S. Steel Company in Gary, Indiana. On August 15, 1967, thousands of people gathered in Daley Plaza to witness the unveiling and dedication of the city’s newest piece of public art. In his dedication letter, Picasso gave the sculpture as a gift to the people of Chicago, without ever explaining what the sculpture was intended to represent.

    • Founded: 1967
    • Designer: Pablo Picasso
    • Google rating: 4.6/5.0
    • Address: 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
  4. The Greetings from Chicago Mural was one of the initial pieces of a nationwide mural project creating interactive modern landmarks through public art. The name of the city CHICAGO was spelled out in bold letters while incorporating pertinent imagery to the city within the letters, drawing inspiration from the large letter postcard that became popular in the middle of the 20th century. The piece of art, which is about 30 feet wide by 15 feet tall, was made with spray paint and latex.

    The mural is located in Chicago, Illinois's Logan Square neighborhood. This project's overarching objective is to involve the community in the creation of public art through education, voice, active participation, representation, and experience on a national level.

    The mural has become the most photographed wall in Chicago, IL and daily interaction with it can been seen on social media using the location “Chicago’s Home Mural” (Facebook & Instagram.) The artwork also took on a life of its own getting numerous positive reviews on Google and Yelp pages created by the public. Locals have been so proud of the artwork that they tattooed it on themselves!

    • Founded: 2015
    • Designer: Victor Ving
    • Google rating: 4.7/5.0
    • Address: 2226 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
  5. A massive steel archway painted a striking red was unveiled as a new work of public art in Chicago on a cool autumn day in 1974. In Chicago's Federal Plaza, Alexander Calder's Flamingo made its official debut and has since become an iconic structure. The day after the sculpture was unveiled on October 25, 1974, it was declared "Alexander Calder Day," and a circus parade was held to honor the artist's significant contributions to the community and the larger field of art.

    Although you might not notice it immediately as a flamingo, every Chicagoan is familiar with the long and graceful arcs of the famous red Flamingo sculpture designed by Alexander Calder. Calder is a seminal Modernist multi-media artist perhaps best known for his many whimsical mobile creations.

    Weighing in at 50 tons and made of steel, the sculpture feels anything but heavy in the space it occupies. Its arches and voids invite passerby to walk beneath and through the art on their way to surrounding office buildings in the plaza — including the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed Kluczynski Federal Building.

    The sculpture was created especially for this location to soften and balance the harsh Modernist lines of the Federal Building. The festivity, spirit and joy of this sculpture and its history are apparent to all that visit it on display in Chicago, adding yet another meaningful and momentous sculpture to the city’s iconic and artful culture.

    • Founded: 1974
    • Designer: Alexander Calder
    • Google rating: 4.7/5.0
    • Address: 210 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60604
  6. The 16-foot-tall piece of public art, which was created by German artist Stephan Balkenhol, shows a man embracing a fish that is spitting water out of its mouth. It symbolizes humans’ love and fascination with aquatic life and the responsibility people have for caring for the world’s lakes, rivers, and oceans.

    The only fish that can speak in the Shedd Aquarium's more than 32,500 fish population is this large fish. As part of Statue Stories Chicago, a citywide public art initiative, you can click the QR code next to the statue and hear a script written by actor Chris Redd of The Second City and voiced by actor Steve Carell.

    Unfortunately, Man with Fish hasn't always garnered positive reviews. Despite the fact that the artist is known for creating lifelike human forms with inoffensive, emotionless expressions, many people consider the sculpture to be the ugliest statue in Chicago. Some attribute this to the man's overly enthusiastic expression while hugging the enormous fish. Some people find the entire design odd and confusing.

    What is great about this water-spewing oddity is that it’s fun. Not every artist creates a Venus de Milo, and that’s okay. So, hats off to Man with Fish and its designer. After taking in the statue, check out Shedd Aquarium and the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline.

    • Founded: 2001
    • Designer: Stephan Balkenhol
    • Google rating: N/A
    • Address: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
  7. As part of an installation known as Art on theMart, you can frequently see enormous images and animations projected on the side of the Merchandise Mart when dusk falls in Chicago. The most recognizable milestone in Chicago's iconic public art trajectory is Art on theMART. With a launch event that brought over 32,000 people to the Riverwalk and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago in September 2018, theMART transformed the area's urban context by introducing Art on theMART to the world.

    Screening two times each evening (the projects take a few weeks off when the weather gets cold in January, February and March), Art on theMart features images by local and international artists and photographers, blown up to engulf the 25-story-tall facade. You'll get the best view of the display from a section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street, where you can also hear the accompanying soundtrack.

    • Founded: 2018
    • Designers: Valerio Dewalt Train, Obscura Digital and Vornado Realty
    • Google rating: 4.3/5.0
    • Address: 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza Suite 470, Chicago, IL 60654
  8. Another work of public art that has sparked much speculation about what it represents is Miró's Chicago, which is situated in Brunswick Plaza directly across the street from the Picasso sculpture. A 39-foot tall stylized female form made of steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze, and ceramic tile is known as The Sun, the Moon and One Star. The statue is situated in a tiny plaza in front of the well-known Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, which is situated between the Chicago Temple and the George W. Dunn Cook County Office Building.

    Originally to be installed the same year as Picasso’s work, the plan was abandoned, due to financial issues, by the Brunswick Corporation, which commissioned the piece. It remained a small maquette until a committee, led by Stanley Freehlin, raised over half of the necessary funds from private donors and the City of Chicago contributed matching funds. The finished figure was unveiled on April 20, 1981, by Chicago’s first female mayor, Jane Byrne. If you head up to the Milwaukee Art Museum, you can see a miniature bronze model of the statue. Miró’s is definitely one of the best public arts in Chicago.

    • Founded: 1981
    • Designer: Joan Miró
    • Tripadvisor rating: 4.0/5.0
    • Address: 69 W. Washington St.Chicago, IL 60602
  9. The Four Seasons by French Artist Marc Chagall is a mosaic composed of thousands of inlaid chips depicting the four seasons of Chicago. The mosaic was designed and built in Chagall's studio in France and brought over to be installed in 1977 to honor the American bicentennial and Mayor Richard J. Daley.

    Composed of thousands of inlaid chips in over 250 colors, the design for this mosaic was created in Chagall’s studio in France, transferred onto full-scale panels, and installed in Chicago with the help of a skilled mosaicist. In its entirety, the mosaic portrays the Four Seasons through six Chicago scenes, filled with birds, fish, flowers, suns, and pairs of lovers. Chagall commented that, “the seasons represent human life, both physical and spiritual, at its different ages.”

    Ironically, this gorgeous piece of art has suffered a lot of destruction from Chicago's harsh four seasons. In 1994, it underwent extensive restoration and a canopy was added to help protect the structure.

    • Founded: 1974
    • Designer: Marc Chagall
    • Google rating: 4.7/5.0
    • Address: 10 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60603
  10. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park is a major addition to the city's world-renowned public art collection. It is a highly interactive art installation consisting of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. Krueck + Sexton Architects designed the towers using 22,000 ten-pound glass blocks. The surface area of the fountain floor is covered with matte, black granite creating a vast, dark and empty surface.

    The towers project video images of Chicago locals, who spout jets of water from their pouting lips. The design was inspired by the tradition of using gargoyles in fountains, sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow.

    Crown Fountain uses numerous design elements including water, light, and glass to create a unique meeting point and reflection space. Though not originally constructed as such, the Fountain has become an interactive summer urban oasis for families and visitors who take refuge in the space during Chicago’s humid summers.

    Locals and tourists alike have enjoyed Jaume Plensa’s stunning interactive public art feature for nearly 18 years now. An urban escape in the hotter months, Crown Fountain has become a beloved and iconic public feature of the great city.

    • Founded: 2004
    • Designer: Jaume Plensa
    • Google rating: 4.7/5.0
    • Address: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601

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