Archive for the ‘exhibition’ Category

bannerIt’s Chicago’s Year of Public Art, so let’s get out and experience some of this creative art.

I was always aware that Chicago has a great tradition of making public art available to all, and its collection of public art is one of the defining characteristics of the city, but this special year gives another dimension to this.

2017 has been designated Year of Public Art Chicago, with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project. Managed by DCASE (Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), the 50×50 initiative will provide up to $1 million for new public arts projects.

Chicago has a long and rich history of public art, so why now? This initiative was


The Picasso in Daley Plaza

inspired by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 of Chicago’s most famous seminal public art works: The Picasso in Daley Plaza, and The Wall of Respect, which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on Chicago’s South Side.

DCASE manages the Chicago Public Art Collection, which includes 500+ works exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries and CTA station. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance, which was established in 1978 and stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.

What an amazing concept. Go Chicago!

perilsThere will be many special exhibits and tours, but I was only in Chicago for 3 days this April, so could only track down a few of these special art works at this time.

Turns out that many of these famous public art works have an interesting story and history, starting with the Picasso. To co-incide with this Year of Public Art, the Chicago Cultural Center has a small exhibit called The Fame and Perils of Chicago’s Public Art. The introductory board tells us that, “Planning and creating public art can be a risky venture. Depending on how or what you count, the placement of art in Chicago’s public spaces has a 200-year long history. Sometimes the art is loved. Sometimes it is hated. To further complicate matters, times change—and so do the tastes of people.”

So…to start with Picasso’s “Untitled”.

frontcloserUntitled” by Pablo Picasso, on the Richard J Daley Civic Center Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street. In 1967 Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled in Chicago’s Civic Center (now called the Richard J. Daley CivicCenter).

In 1963, imagining a work for the new Chicago Civic Plaza, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill turned to Pablo Picasso. Using an introduction from English artist Roland Penrose, Hartmann contacted Picasso describing a “site for the most important piece of sculpture in the United States.” Picasso accepted and worked on plans for the largest work of his career, mostly with his vision of an abstract female figure, which he gave as a gift to the city.

This abstract design was not originally popular when the monument was erected in


Newspaper picture with Banks superimposed

1967. In fact, as I learned from the small exhibit in the Chicago Cultural Center, many Chicagoans thought it was a giant portrait of the artist’s Afghan hound. An alderman from the City Council proposed replacing the Picasso with a giant statue of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, and a local paper ran a story with a photo of Banks superimposed on that of the Picasso.

At the time of the opening of the Picasso, Mayor Richard J. Daley insightfully dedicated it with these words, “what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.” That has proved true, and 50 years later it’s an iconic part of the city’s landscape, and much loved by locals and visitors. So much so, that Northwestern grad and vocal art advocate, Patricia Stratton, has written a book dedicated to the sculpture called “The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure”.

sideI find this work of Picasso’s very interesting: I can definitely see the Afghan hound in there, but also a female figure. What do you think?

Picasso’s work was Chicago’s first major pubic art work in the modern style, rather than historical effigies and memorials that had been traditional before. It inspired much private and public investment in art for the city center, including Marc Chagall’s mosaic “The Four Seasons” in 1974, which then inspired his “America Windows”. Other commissions included monuments by Joan Miro (1963), Jean Dubuffet (1969) and Alexander Calder (1974), among many others. And so a tradition was born.


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Horse “parading” in a garden in Urbana, IL


Cows on Parade, Chicago 1999

Animals on Parade

Many cities have, over the years, put up an outdoor exhibition of “Animals on Parade”. The city chooses a special animal—horse, cow, pig, buffalo—and many of these animals are made in fiber glass. Different companies, businesses, shops, institutions adopt an animal and paint it any way they want—usually somehow reflecting their business—and it is placed outside. Some are bright and cheerful, some very whimsical, some symbolic, some rather strange. After some months, there is usually an auction and the animals are sold to benefit a charity. Sometimes the business will keep its own animal, but sometimes it goes to a new home.

We have also seen city benches in Chicago as a theme, and St Louis recently has its 250


Cows on Parade, Chicago 1999

years celebration with 250 fiber-glass cakes dotted around the city. Same great concept.

We’ve seen a number of these collections on our travels and it’s a lot of fun, especially if there’s a list and you can try to track down all of them. Visitors and locals all love these, and it obviously benefits the city to have this extra interest in a temporary exhibition of wonderful outdoor sculptures.

The first “parade” that we came across was the “Cows on Parade” in Chicago in summer 1999 and I wrote about that then. See here http://www.viviennemackie.com/Illinois/Chic-cow-go.html .


In summer of 2002 we saw the “Buffaloes on Parade” in Salt Lake City and nearby Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.


Buffaloes on Parade, Salt Lake City 2002


Buffalo parading on Antelope Island, 2002

And the following year we found many of the “Lipizzaners on Parade” in Vienna, Austria. All gorgeous.


Lipizzaners on Parade, Vienna 2003


Lipizzaner parading in Vienna, 2003

In 2014 we went on a serious “Cake Hunt” for the St Louis birthday “Cakes” (which I documented in a special blog: https://mackie250stl.wordpress.com ). And in Chicago we had fun finding some different horses. These were for the Police Memorial Foundation and were called “Horses of Honor.”


Vera M with  Horse of Honor, Chicago 2014


Horse of honor, Chicago 2014


A gorgeous Horse of Honor, Chicago 2014


A lovely horse in an Urbana garden

So….walking around my own neighborhood in Urbanathe other day I was intrigued to find a painted fiber-glass horse in someone’s garden. It’s very pretty with a black and white pattern, but its stance didn’t match any of the “parades” that I’ve seen.

I’m very curious—-where did they get it, what does it represent? I don’t know these people at all, so I may never know.

But, I’ll be sure to walk that way again.



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An outdoor exhibit on Pope John Paul II in Planty Park, Krakow

An outdoor exhibit on Pope John Paul II in Planty Park, Krakow

I posted this on my blog about our special Eastern Europe Trip, but think it’s also relevant and interesting here. So, here’s the link. Enjoy!


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gen sign

Cake at Brightside Park

Cake at Brightside Park

We’ve been very busy recently with an exciting new project: Trying to track down and write up as many of the “Birthday Cakes” in St Louis, Missouri, as possible. The city is celebrating 250 years this year and part of the celebrations are fiber-glass birthday cakes with candles, dotted around the city, county and outlying areas. The cakes are at places/buildings/parks/museums/shops/institutions that have have an impact on the history of St Louis and its surrounds and helped to make it what it is.



general sign

Cake at Cahokia Mounds

Cake at Cahokia Mounds

It’s a fun project, part scavenger hunt, part history lesson, part photographic expedition. Each cake has been specially painted by a local artist, usually with images that fit the cake’s location.

Please share with me, and take a look here:


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Three of Plensa's Heads. From R to L: Ines, Laura, Paula

Three of Plensa’s Heads. From R to L: Ines, Laura, Paula

Crown Fountain early evening. One of 1000 Chicagoan faces

Crown Fountain early evening. One of 1000 Chicagoan faces

In celebration of its 10th anniversary (opened 2004), Millennium Park in Chicago presents an exhibition of sculpture by Jaume Plensa. On display through December 2015.

Born 1955 in Catalonia, Spain, the artist and sculptor Jaume Plensa lives and works in Barcelona. He has presented more than 35 projects and solo exhibitions around the world, in cities such as Calgary, Dubai, London, Liverpool, New York, Nice, Seattle and Tokyo, among others. And even in Des Moines, Iowa, where we were fascinated by his Nomade! https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/symbolic-head-sculpture-with-multiple-meanings/

Because we’d seen Nomade recently we were happy to find more works by this talented artist.

Chicagoans are already familiar with Plensa as he designed and made the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, one of the park’s most prominent and popular attractions. The fountain, which opened in July 2004, is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15 m) tall and they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display digital videos on the faces that appear and disappear.
















Looking into my Dreams, Awilda

Looking into my Dreams, Awilda

Now, he has another installation in Millennium Park—4 huge heads, called 1004 Portraits, on display through December 2015. This new exhibition of outdoor art features four monumental portraits of young girls complementing the story of the 1000 LED portraits of Chicago residents that illuminate the Crown Fountain.

The first sculpture is called Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda. It’s made of resin and marble dust and stands 39 feet tall at the entrance to the Park on Michigan Ave and Madison Street. The aim is that the sculpture’s surreal and majestic presence will bridge the energy and distractions of city life with the tranquility of the Park, and encourage visitors to stop and contemplate.

The other 3 sculptures are in the South Boeing Gallery, overlooking the fountains. They are cast iron and stand 20 feet tall—Paula (north), Laura (middle) and Ines (south). They are very solid-looking but also have a hologram-like quality. These serene, dreamlike portraits offer a counterbalance to the children’s noisy play in the fountains below (in the warmer weather).

This exhibition is on loan from the artist and Richard Gray Gallery and is sponsored and funded by multiple sources.

Rod M stands in front of Ines

Rod M stands in front of Ines



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I stand at the entrance to IMA

I stand at the entrance to IMA

We wonder what this long circular "curtain" is

We wonder what this long circular “curtain” is

A Room, by Sopheap Pich, Cambodian, b 1971

Installed 2014. Made of bamboo, aluminum, plastic, polyethylene braided line, and Teflon floss.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s large entrance hall is often home to a temporary art installation and we were lucky to see this unusual creation. Long strips of various materials cascade down in a circle from the ceiling and at first we wonder what on earth it is. Turns out that visitors can part the strips and enter the circle or inner space, called A Room.

A Room was specially created for the IMA, and is a rare opportunity for people to touch and experience Pich’s work from the inside looking out. When inside, the light coming through the slats suggests the light in a bamboo forest.

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

A Room fits perfectly into the circular entrance hall

The artist used lengths of bamboo as well as artificial strips. The bamboo is all from Cambodia and was prepared by hand in his studio. Photographs on the information board show him and his workers preparing and laying out all the strips.

This is a really interesting installation, as it is huge and colorful and yet very symbolic in a way—a room within a room, a place to stop and think about where we are and to imagine we are in some other place. We loved the way the different strands of materials shimmer and seem to change color as the light changes.

Sopheap Pich works and teaches in his studio in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He likes to work with natural materials like bamboo and rattan, which are easily available near his studio. Many of his sculptures use parallel lines woven in an open grid, which allows air and light to pass through, giving access to both interior and exterior and creating intricate shadows that change with the light.

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors

Inside A Room, looking out to another room and to the outdoors


Entering A Room in afternoon light

Entering A Room in afternoon light


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Entrance to British Museum

Entrance to British Museum

Small Medals Tell a Large History

exhibitentrance(This is the final post on the WW1 commemorative exhibits we visited this summer).

If you will be visiting London before mid-November this year you will be able to take in two of the special exhibits that I’ve posted about, as the one we saw in Paris (see https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/ww1-centenary-commemorations-part-2-paris/ ) has now moved to London’s St James’s Park, where it will be until 11th November: Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18

After that, it will tour the UK and internationally until 2018, as a way of bringing the Centenary to hundreds of thousands of people. www.fieldsofbattle1418.org

The other special exhibition is at the British Museum: “The Other Side of the Medal: How Germany Saw the First World War”. It will run until November 23, 2014. Museum entrance is free, as is entrance to this exhibit.

Good information about the museum at www.britishmuseum.org entrancehelmet

This small exhibit very cleverly uses the common phrase “The Other Side of the Coin”, meaning to look at a different viewpoint. Here, it does try to show how the other side thought about the war, literally using coins (medals).

This display shows medals produced by artists during the War, documenting the events of the conflict from an emotional as well as an historical perspective. There are many German, some French and a few British medals.

There are medals telling the story of the Battle of Verdun and Battle of Jutland, German zeppelins over London, and many about the sinking of the Lusitania.

On May 7, 1915, the passenger liner RMS Lusitania was sunk enroute from New York to Liverpool by a torpedo from a German U-boat submarine. The sinking of the Lusitania turned public opinion in the USA against Germany.

If I had to pick out just one medal to show here it would be America in the World War, by Ludwig Gies, Germany 1917.


Gies’ giant animal-headed raft represents America. Profits from the sale of armaments to allied powers pour from its mouth, while ranks of guns form the beast’s back. America formally joined the war in 1917, although it had been supplying arms to the Allies throughout.

As the war came to an end, artists produced medals about the blockade of Germany and then about the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.

A small but significant exhibit that gives one a different perspective of this great conflict. Well worth a quick visit.


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