Chicago Loop / Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

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Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

Unveiled: August 15, 1967.

Location: Richard J. Daley Civic Center Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street.

The sculpture is a gift by the artist Pablo Picasso to the people of Chicago.

Made of Corrosive Tensile [“Cor-Ten”] steel / 50 feet tall / 162 tons weight.

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

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The first monumental modern sculpture to be placed in the Loop is this Untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso. It was unveiled in the Civic Center Plaza on August 15, 1967. The artist, Pablo Picasso left it untitled, but Chicagoans named it after the artist, calling it the “Picasso”.

This sculpture was initially greeted with lots of controversies. At the time of its installation in 1967, the abstract design, the non-traditional materials and huge scale were all subject of scorn and ridicule. Art scholars have suggested that the statue is either a portrait of Picasso’s wife at the time or his Afghan dog from different angles. Some even interpret it as a horse, a baboon or a Viking Ship. While opinions of the sculpture’s subject matter vary, it is acknowledged as a monumental achievement in Cubism.

Picasso refused to accept payment for his work.  He designed a 42-inch model of the sculpture that he presented as a “gift to the people of Chicago.”  However, this gift from the artist Picasso, to the people of Chicago, has over time become an icon of the city and a source of civic pride.

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

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COR-TEN STEEL

The sculpture is made of Corrosive Tensile [“Cor-Ten”] steel. The steel used in the construction of the sculpture is the same as used for the office building behind it [Civic Center /Richard J. Daley Center]. The steel is designed to form a protective coating of iron oxide (rust) which protects the substrate from further corrosion. Over time the sculpture and the building has developed the same patina, so it looks like a natural part of the landscape.

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Picasso never visited the United States, and never saw the completion of his design.

Picasso died on April 8, 1973,  before ever visiting the United States to see the completion of his design. Following Picasso’s death, the Mayor and members of the City Council in the council meeting on May 9, 1973, publicly paid tribute to the famous artist with a resolution which read, in part,

“Pablo Picasso became a permanent part of Chicago, forever tied to the city he admired but never saw, in a country he never visited, on August 15, 1967. It was on that day that the Picasso sculpture in the Civic Center Plaza was unveiled; it has become a part of Chicago, and so has its creator Picasso. 

Picasso, who refused to accept payment for his work, designed a 42-inch model of the sculpture that he presented as a “Gift to the people of Chicago.”

The actual sculpture, however, was manufactured by United States Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana, where it was entirely pre-assembled, then disassembled, and subsequently shipped to the Daley Center to be reassembled in its final form. The steel that was utilized for the exterior of the Daley Center was also used for the Picasso sculpture, and, over time, developed the same patina.

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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The Monumental Picasso sculpture and the Richard J. Daley Center

Picasso’s monumental sculpture is installed in the courtyard of the Richard J. Daley Center. It is the premier civic center of the City of Chicago in Illinois, consisting mostly of courtrooms and county offices. The Cook County Law Library and County Sheriff’s office also reside here. It was designed in the international architectural style by Jacques Brownson of the firm C. F. Murphy Associates and completed in 1965. At the time it was the tallest building in Chicago. As mentioned earlier, the “cor-ten” steel used in the construction of the sculpture is the same as used for the office building behind it. Over time the sculpture and the building has developed the same patina, so it looks like a natural part of the landscape.

Plans for this monumental sculpture can be tracked down to April 1963, when architects for the Chicago Civic Center [today the Richard J. Daley Center] – William Hartmann [of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill], Charles F. Murphy [of C.F. Murphy Associates], Richard Bennett [of Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett] – along with administrators of the Art Institute contacted British artist and poet Roland Penrose, who was also a close personal friend and biographer of Picasso.  They described the idea of a monumental sculpture in the new city hall:

“This is the location for the most important public sculpture in America. We would like to determine if the man who we regard as the world’s greatest living artist, would be interested in exploring this problem. We are thinking of Pablo Picasso”.

They soon arranged a visit to Mougins [southeastern France] armed with a model and an album of photographs of famous Chicagoans to introduce the artist to the project. Picasso noting a portrait of Ernest Hemingway exclaimed, “My friend! I taught him everything he knew about bullfighting. Was he from Chicago?”  They also showed photographs of works of Picasso in Chicago collections as a reminder of his importance to the city.

Picasso accepted the commission.

 

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Picasso gifted the maquette to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Picasso gifted the maquette to the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

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Picasso refused to accept payment for his work.
Picasso donated his design to the city, and his maquette to the Art Institute of Chicago.

In devising a sculpture for Chicago, Picasso drew upon ideas for a monumental head of a woman that he had been considering for at least a year or more. Over the years Picasso make numerous sketches and paper construction. From initial drawings he produced models, first in cardboard and other materials, and finally in steel. Picasso studied these maquettes in his studio for nearly a year, observing them from various angles and under different light conditions, before identifying his final design.

Picasso worked on the project slowly irrespective of the progress of construction in Chicago. With deadline approaching, Hartmann sent Picasso various reminders of the city – a Chicago white Sox jacket and cap, a Chicago Bears jersey, a straw boater and a Sioux war bonnet – to stimulate his enthusiasm and curiosity.

In 1965, the completed maquette arrived in Chicago [a relieved Hartmann sent a telegraph to Penrose that the “Mougins dame has arrived. Champaign to all!] and was presented to Mayor Richard J. Daley and the public building commission in a gallery of the Art Institute. Once approved, work to prepare scale drawings and other decisions about the specifications necessary for the construction was carried by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

In August 1966, Hartmann returned to France to discuss the final design, including modification needed for the sculpture to withstand city’s strong winds. Extremely pleased with the project, Picasso donated his design to the city, and his maquette to the Art Institute of Chicago [AIC]. Picasso had crafted two maquettes out of welded steel. He kept one in his studio and sent the other to Chicago for AIC.

Picasso had designed a 42-inch model of the sculpture. He  was offered payment of $100,000 for the work,  but he refused to accept the payment, stating that he wanted his work to be “Gift to the people of Chicago.”

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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FUNDING and FABRICATION of Picasso’s Monumental Sculpture.

As mentioned earlier, Picasso had designed a 42-inch maquette for the sculpture. He refused to accept payment for his design and work, and presented it as a “Gift to the people of Chicago”.

The $3000,000 required to fabricate the piece was provided by Woods Charitable Fund, the Field Foundation of Illinois, and the Chauncy and Marion Deering McCormick Foundation.

The actual work was done by the American Bridge Division of the US Steel Company in Gary Indiana. The piece was completely assembled, and then disassembled for shipment and then reassembled in the Plaza. It is made of Corrosive Tensile [“Cor-Ten”] steel, and is 50 feet tall and weighs 162 tons.

 

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Picasso and Chicago / making of the monumental sculpture.

Picasso and Chicago / making of the monumental sculpture.

 

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Picasso and Chicago
Exhibition at AIC / February 20, 2013 – May 12, 2013.

In February 2013, the Art Institute of Chicago had an exhibition “Picasso and Chicago”.  One of the highlights of the exhibition was Picasso’s sketches for the monumental sculpture at the Daley Center Plaza. Check out many more images in my post, “The Making of Picasso’s Monumental Sculpture”..  click here..

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Unveiling of the sculpture / Image from AIC exhibition, "Picasso and Chicagp."

Unveiling of the sculpture / Image from AIC exhibition, “Picasso and Chicagp.”

 

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Unveiling of the sculpture: August 15 1967

Finally, on August 15 1967, Picasso sculpture was unveiled, with thousands of people in attendance. The opening celebration featured a poem written for the occasion read by Gwendolyn Brooks, a performance by Chicago Symphony orchestra and a message from president Lyndon B. Johnson, who wrote:

Your new Civic center plaza with its unique and monumental sculpture by one of the acknowledged geniuses of modern art is a fitting addition to a city famous for its creative vitality. Chicago, which gave the world its first skyscraper, and America some of the greatest artists and poets, has a long recognized that art, beauty and open space are essential and proper elements of urban living. You have demonstrated once again that Chicago is a city second to none.”

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Controversies. /  Image from AIC exhibition, "Picasso and Chicagp.

Controversies. / Image from AIC exhibition, “Picasso and Chicagp.

 

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CONTROVERSIES

Initially the sculpture was initially greeted with lots of controversies. At the time of its installation in 1967, the abstract design, the non-traditional materials and huge scale were all subject of scorn and ridicule. Art scholars have suggested that the statue is either a portrait of Picasso’s wife at the time or his Afghan dog from different angles. Some even interpret it as a horse, a baboon or a Viking Ship. However, this gift from the artist Picasso, to the people of Chicago, has over time become an icon of the city and a source of civic pride.

While opinions of the sculpture’s subject matter vary, it is acknowledged as a monumental achievement in Cubism.

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Aftermath of Picasso’s Monumental Sculpture at Daley Plaza.

It is important to note that “Chicago’s Picasso” is not the first monumental abstract sculpture in Chicago, but arguably it was the most influential. The first abstract sculpture by a contemporary artist to be put at a public space in Chicago was in 1958 in the lobby of Inland Steel Building. It was the work of American artist Richard Lippord titled “Radient One” click here...  Another abstract installation was in 1964 at the University of Chicago by Russian Constructivist artist Antoine Pevsner named, “Construction in Space and in the Third and Fourth Dimensions”.. click here..  There was also Cubi VII by David Smith.. click here..

But Picasso was the most famous and influential artist of his time, and his installation has widespread impact!

Within two decades of Picasso’s installation,  Chicago saw a  large number of monumental outdoor installations:   Herbert Ferber’s Untitled [1972], Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” [1974], Marc Chagall’s “Four Seasons” [1974], Harry Bertoia’ s “Sounding Sculpture [1975], Isamu Noguchi’s Fountain, [1976], Claes Oldenburg’s “Batcolumn” [1977], Henry Moore’s Sundial [1980], Joan Miro’s Chicago [1981], Louis Nevelson’s “Dawn Shadow” [1982], Jean Dufuffet’s ”Monument With Standing Beast”[1985], and Sol Lewitt’s “Lines in Four Directions”[1985].

For more on the Aftermath of Picasso’s Monumental Sculpture.. click here..

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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MORE IMAGES from one fine day I was seeing things differently!

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

 

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Map for visually impaired /  Daley Plaza

Map for visually impaired / Daley Plaza

 

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Map for visually impaired /  Daley Plaza

Map for visually impaired / Daley Plaza

 

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Chicago Landmark

Chicago Landmark: Daley Center.

 

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Untitled - by Pablo Picasso

Image from 2010, when Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup after 49 years / Untitled – by Pablo Picasso

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RELATED LINKS

The Aftermath of Picasso’s Monumental Sculpture at Daley Plaza..click here..
The Making of Picasso’s Monumental Sculpture the Daley Plaza.. click here..

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