Cloud Gate in Chicago

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Cloud Gate, a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park within the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois, United States. The sculpture and AT&T Plaza are located on top of Park Grill, between the Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. Constructed between 2004 and 2006, the sculpture is nicknamed "The Bean" because of its bean-like shape. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams. It is 33 by, and weighs 110 ST.

Said to have been inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture's surface reflects and distorts the city's skyline. Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate's 12 ft high arch. On the underside is the "omphalos" (Greek for "navel"), a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. The sculpture builds upon many of Kapoor's artistic themes, and is popular with tourists as a photo-taking opportunity for its unique reflective properties.

The sculpture was selected during a design competition. After Kapoor's design was chosen, numerous technological concerns regarding the design's construction and assembly arose, in addition to concerns regarding the sculpture's upkeep and maintenance. Various experts were consulted, some of whom believed the design could not be implemented. Eventually, a feasible method was found, but the sculpture's construction fell behind schedule. It was unveiled in an incomplete form during the Millennium Park grand opening celebration in 2004, before being concealed again while it was completed. Cloud Gate was formally dedicated on May 15, 2006, and has since gained considerable popularity, both domestically and internationally.


<imagemap>File:Millennium Park Map labels.png|
Image map of Millennium Park. (Each feature or label is linked.)
|alt=Rectangular map of a park about 1.5 times as wide as it is tall. The top half is dominated by the Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn. The lower half is divided into three roughly equal sections: (left to right) Wrigley Square, McCormick Tribune Plaza, and Crown Fountain. North is to the left.|400px|thumb|right

rect 51 18 145 80 McDonald's Cycle Center rect 338 2 496 94BP Pedestrian Bridge rect 497 62 536 101BP Pedestrian Bridge rect 497 6 631 34 Columbus Drive rect 10 88 154 104 Exelon Pavilion NE rect 47 108 79 131 Exelon Pavilion NE rect 619 95 754 112 Exelon Pavilion SE rect 728 113 759 135 Exelon Pavilion SE rect 10 246 166 263 Exelon Pavilion NW rect 47 265 78 288 Exelon Pavilion NW rect 613 243 762 258 Exelon Pavilion SW rect 736 260 757 275 Exelon Pavilion SW rect 44 149 174 229 Harris Theater rect 175 103 572 288 Jay Pritzker Pavilion rect 573 134 757 238 Lurie Garden rect 572 311 718 329 Nichols Bridgeway rect 516 298 777 306 Nichols Bridgeway rect 58 350 207 396 Chase Promenade North rect 291 350 453 396 Chase Promenade Central rect 537 350 687 396 Chase Promenade South rect 313 397 431 424 AT&T Plaza rect 37 434 227 473 Boeing Gallery North rect 516 433 757 469 Boeing Gallery South rect 337 426 416 470 Cloud Gate rect 60 486 216 546 Wrigley Square rect 287 477 457 543 McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink rect 557 488 727 543 Crown Fountain rect 308 567 439 583 Michigan Avenue rect 1 316 23 442 Randolph Street desc bottom-left </imagemap> Lying between Lake Michigan to the east and the Loop to the west, Grant Park has been Chicago's front yard since the mid-19th century. Its northwest corner, north of Monroe Street and the Art Institute, east of Michigan Avenue, south of Randolph Street, and west of Columbus Drive, had been Illinois Central rail yards and parking lots until 1997, when it was made available for development by the city as Millennium Park. For 2007, the park was Chicago's second largest tourist attraction, trailing only Navy Pier.

In 1999, Millennium Park officials and a group of art collectors, curators and architects reviewed the artistic works of 30 different artists and asked two for proposals. American artist Jeff Koons submitted a proposal to erect a permanent 150 ft sculpture of a playground slide; This mirror-like surface would reflect the Chicago skyline, but its elliptical shape would distort and twist the reflected image. As visitors walk around the structure, its surface acts like a fun-house mirror as it distorts their reflections. Skyscrapers to the north along East Randolph Street, including The Heritage, the Smurfit-Stone Building, Two Prudential Plaza, One Prudential Plaza, and Aon Center are visible, reflected on both the east and west sides of the sculpture.

Although Kapoor does not draw with computers, computer modeling was essential to the process of analyzing the complex form, which created numerous issues. Being outside, concerns arose that it might retain and conduct heat in a way that would make it too hot to touch during the summer and so cold that one's tongue might stick to it during the winter. The extreme temperature variation between seasons was also feared to weaken the structure. Graffiti, bird droppings and fingerprints were also potential problems, as they would affect the aesthetics of the surface.

While the sculpture was being constructed, public and media outlets nicknamed it "The Bean" because of its leguminous shape, a name that Kapoor described as "completely stupid". Critical reviews describe the sculpture as a passage between realms. Three-quarters of the sculpture's external surface reflects the sky and the name refers to it acting as a type of gate that helps bridge the space between the sky and the viewer. The sculpture and plaza are sometimes referred to jointly as "Cloud Gate on the AT&T Plaza". and Performance Structures, Inc. (PSI) was chosen to fabricate it because of their ability to produce nearly invisible welds. Initially, PSI planned to build and assemble the sculpture in Oakland, California, and ship it to Chicago through the Panama Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway. However, this plan was discarded after park officials deemed it too risky, so the decision was made to transport the individual panels by truck and to assemble the structure on-site, a task undertaken by MTH Industries.

The sculpture's weight raised concerns. Estimating the thickness of the steel needed to create the sculpture's desired aesthetics before fabrication was difficult. Cloud Gate was originally estimated to weigh 60 ST when completed. However, the final figure was almost twice as heavy at 110 ST. This extra weight required engineers to reconsider the sculpture's supporting structures. The roof of the Park Grill, upon which Cloud Gate sits, had to be built strong enough to bear the weight. The large retaining wall separating Chicago's Metra train tracks from the North Grant Park garage supports much of the weight of the sculpture and forms the back side of the restaurant. This wall, along with the rest of the garage's foundation, required additional bracing before the piece was erected. The trusses and supporting structures were only present for the construction phases. The finished sculpture has no inner bracing. The supporting structural components were designed and constructed to ensure that no specific point was overloaded, and to avoid producing unwanted indentations on the exterior shell. The frame was also designed to expand and contract with the sculpture as temperatures fluctuate. As a result, the two large rings supporting the sculpture move independently of each other, allowing the shell to move independently of the rings. Welders used keyhole welding machines rather than traditional welding guns. Construction began with the omphalos, where plates were attached to the supporting internal steel structure, from the inside (underside) of the sculpture downward to the outermost surfaces. This sequence caused the structure to resemble a large sombrero when the bottom was complete.

The shell of Cloud Gate was fully erected for the grand opening of Millennium Park on July 15, 2004, although it was unpolished and thus unfinished, because its assembly had fallen behind schedule. The piece was temporarily uncovered on July 8 for the opening, although Kapoor was unhappy with this as it allowed the public to see the sculpture in an unfinished state. The original plan was to re-erect the tent around the sculpture for polishing on July 24, but public appreciation for the piece convinced park officials to leave it uncovered for several months. The tent was again erected in January 2005 as a 24-person crew from Ironworkers Local 63 polished the seams between each plate. Every weld on the Cloud Gate underwent a five-stage process, required to produce the sculpture's mirror-like finish. The cost for the piece was first estimated at $6 million; this had escalated to $11.5 million by the time the park opened in 2004, with the final figure standing at $23 million in 2006. No public funds were involved; all funding came from donations from individuals and corporations. The lower 6 ft of Cloud Gate is wiped down twice a day by hand, while the entire sculpture is cleaned twice a year with 40 of liquid detergent. The daily cleanings use a Windex-like solution, while the semi-annual cleanings use Tide. In addition to the scheduled cleanings, the work endures periodic vandalism, including a notable February 2009 incident during which two names were etched in letters about 1 in tall on the northeast side of the curved sculpture. The graffiti was removed by the same firm that did the original polishing.


Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley declared the day of the sculpture's dedication, May 15, 2006, to be "Cloud Gate Day". Kapoor attended the celebration, while local jazz trumpeter and bandleader Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic played "Fanfare for Cloud Gate", which Davis composed. The public took an instant liking to the sculpture, affectionately referring to it as "The Bean". Cloud Gate has become a popular piece of public art, and is now a fixture on many souvenirs such as postcards, sweatshirts and posters. The sculpture has attracted a large number of locals, as well as tourists and art aficionados from around the world. The sculpture is the piece by which Kapoor is most identified in the United States.

Time describes the piece as an essential photo opportunity, and more of a destination than a work of art.

When the park first opened in 2004, Metra police stopped a Columbia College Chicago journalism student who was working on a photography project in Millennium Park and confiscated his film because of fears of terrorism. In 2005, the sculpture attracted some controversy when a professional photographer without a paid permit was denied access to the piece. As is the case for all works of art currently covered by United States copyright law, the artist holds the copyright for the sculpture. This allows the public to freely photograph Cloud Gate, but permission from Kapoor or the City of Chicago (which has licensed the art) is required for any commercial reproductions of the photographs. The city first set a policy of collecting permit fees for photographs. These permits were initially set at $350 per day for professional still photographers, $1,200 per day for professional videographers and $50 per hour for wedding photographers. The policy has been changed so permits are only required for large-scale film, video and photography requiring ten-man crews and equipment.

In addition to restricting photography of public art, closing a public park for a private event has also been controversial. In 2005 and 2006, almost all of Millennium Park was closed for a day for corporate events. On both occasions, as one of the park's primary attractions, Cloud Gate was the focus of controversy. On September 8, 2005, Toyota Motor Sales USA paid $800,000 to rent most venues in the park including Cloud Gate on AT&T Plaza from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. On August 7, 2006, Allstate paid $700,000 to rent the park. For this price, Allstate acquired the visitation rights to a different set of features and only had exclusive access to Cloud Gate after 4 p.m. These corporate closures denied tourists access to Kapoor's public sculpture, and commuters who walk through the park were forced to take alternative routes. City officials stated that the money would help to finance free public programs in Millennium Park. Before creating Cloud Gate, Kapoor had created art that distorted images of the viewer instead of portraying images of its own. In so doing, he acquired experience blurring the boundary between the limit and the limitless. Kapoor drew on past experience to design Cloud Gate, in particular the designing of Sky Mirror (2001), a 20 ft 10 ST concave stainless steel mirror that also used a theme of distorted perception on a grand scale.

Cloud Gate themes

Kapoor often speaks of removing both the signature of the artist from his works as well as any traces of their fabrication, or what he refers to as "traces of the hand". Cloud Gate is considered Kapoor's most ambitious use of complex mirrored form dynamics. Kapoor challenges his viewers to internalize his work through intellectual and theoretical exercise. By reflecting the sky, visiting and non-visiting pedestrians and surrounding architecture, Cloud Gate limits its viewers to partial comprehension at any time. The interaction with the viewer who moves to create his own vision gives it a spiritual dimension. The sculpture is described as a disembodied, luminous form,

The viewer physically enters the art when he walks underneath it into its "navel". The omphalos is a "warped dimension of fluid space". In this dimension, solid is transformed into fluid in a disorienting multiplicative manner that intensifies the experience. It is emblematic of Kapoor's work to deconstruct empirical space and venture into manifold possibilities of abstract space. The skyscrapers along East Randolph Street to the northeast (Two Prudential Plaza, and Aon Center), north (One Prudential Plaza) and northwest (The Heritage, Smurfit-Stone Building) are reflected on Cloud Gate's surface when viewed from either the east or the west. The sculpture also warps viewers' perception of time by changing the speed of movements such as the passing of clouds.<ref name=J120/>

Although in the conventional sense Cloud Gate is not an opening that leads anywhere in the same way that monumental gates do, it frames a view and is celebratory in the way it creates a ceremonial place. The work is credited with achieving a new level or understanding described as a transubstantiation of material, reminiscent of that which the artist experienced during a 1979 trip to India. Kapoor's 1000 Names evolved immediately after this trip; twenty-five years later he created Cloud Gate, an object that emerged from material forms to become immaterial.<ref name=B123/>

Kapoor often relies on tenets of Hinduism in his art, and says that "The experience of opposites allows for the expression of wholeness."<ref name=B123/> Primal dualities that are one, such as the lingam and yoni, are important to Indian culture, and Cloud Gate represents both the male and female in one entity by symbolizing both the vagina and testicles.<ref name=B123/> Thus, it represents the tension between the masculine and the feminine.

In popular culture

The sculpture has been used as a backdrop in commercial films, notably in the 2006 Hollywood film The Break-Up, which had to reshoot several scenes because the sculpture was under cover for the initial filming. It is also prominently featured in the ending scene of Source Code. Director Duncan Jones felt the structure was a metaphor for the movie's subject matter and aimed for it to be shown at the beginning and end of the movie.


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