The Chicago Picasso Turns 50
What are Picasso's connections to the city?
Pablo Picasso's untitled sculpture of 1967, often regarded as Picasso's Chicago, was the artist's first monumental sculpture in the United States. Though he never set foot in the city of Chicago, it is speculated that Chicago held a special place in Picasso's heart because The Art Institute of Chicago was the first museum in the United States to show his work. Though his sculpture was commissioned in 1963, Picasso refused payment and gave his sculpture to the city of Chicago as a gift.
The sculpture was originally commissioned by the architects of the Richard J. Daley Center in 1963 through the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (though the artist would refuse payment, insisting that his sculpture be a gift to the city). Picasso created a maquette of the sculpture in 1956, and approved a final model by 1966. Picasso never visited the city of Chicago. The sculpture was fabricated by the American Bridge Company of the United States Steel Corporation in Gary Indiana. The sculpture was jarring at the time of its unveil in 1967, mainly due to the fact that most of Chicago's sculptures were representational pieces depicting historical figures at the time of its conception. The Picasso was cubist in appearance, abstract to the point where no clear understanding of subject matter could be easily determined. The avant-garde work challenged viewers to open their minds and can be credited to opening opportunities for more exciting art pieces to erect in Chicago in the decades since. Today, the Chicago Picasso is a beloved landmark of the city and a popular meeting spot for Chicagoans in front of Daley Plaza.
Commemorating A Masterpiece
On Tuesday, August 8th Chicago marked the sculpture's 50th anniversary by re-staging the unveiling of the Chicago Picasso on Daley Plaza in 1967. Mark Kelley, the Commissioner of DCASE (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events) opened the ceremony with some comments on the iconic 1976 Chicago Picasso. His statement shed light on Chicago's world-class public art collection largely marked by the arrival of Chicago's famed Picasso sculpture. August of 1976 was a seminal moment in our city's history for re-imaging our public spaces. The Chicago Picasso inspired the city and started a public art renaissance that laid the foundation for Millennium Park and all of its interactive public art pieces that reshape our urban environment. Interest and support of public art was made possible today by Picasso's contribution in 1967.
The Chicago re-dedication ceremony included youth performances by the After School Matters Orchestra and Chicago's Children's Choir. The Chicago's Children's Choir had also performed 50 years ago during the original dedication in 1967. A re-dedication was given in the form of poem by writer, performer and educator Avery R. Young.
The symbolic unveiling of the Chicago Picasso was designed and led by Chicago artist Edra Soto. Soto designed a fan to be raised above each crowd participant's face. The crowd was asked to veil their eyes with this fan and reflect on a city without public art, then removed the fan to see the sculptural monument that ingrained public art as part of Chicago's history. A jazz trio led by Orbert Davis closed the ceremony with an ensemble titled Pablo's Perspective
If you missed the re-dedication on the 8th, fear not, for there are more Public Picasso events scheduled to take place throughout the week at the Chicago Cultural Center and Harold Washington Library center.
More Public Picasso Events!
Years Later: Reflections on Chicago's Picasso
August 15, 2017, 12:15pm
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.
Cultural historian Paul Durica will moderate a conversation among Chicago artists, YouMedia teens and representatives from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive in a discussion examining the impact of this iconic artwork on the public art landscape since its dedication on August 15, 1967.
The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure
August 15, 2017, 6pm
Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St.
Art historian Patricia Balton Stratton, along with an esteemed group of panelists will discuss her new book The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure.
Film: Public Art Film Series
August 15, 2017, 6:30pm
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.
As part of the Public Art Film Series, the Chicago Cultural Center will screen films related to the Picasso's 1967 dedication.
Learn more about this iconic sculpture by hitting up these free events on Tuesday, August 15th!