"It’s a bird! It’s a dog! It’s a woman!?" To this day, no one is exactly sure what the 50-foot-tall untitled Picasso sculpture in Chicago’s Daley Plaza actually is supposed to represent. Often called "the Chicago Picasso," the Spanish artist never revealed what or if it was supposed to represent anything at all. On the occasion of the sculpture's 50th anniversary earlier this week, hundreds came out for a reenactment of its unveiling. As part of the reenactment, each of the speakers from the original program were represented by new speakers. For example, in the place of the Bishop-elect, Chicago poet and songwriter Avery R. Young gave a stirring poetic invocation. Fittingly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke in place of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Rather than the grand unveiling of the sculpture with a giant cloth, onlookers were provided with fans designed by Chicago artist Edre Soto to cover their eyes for the second reveal. The sculpture was constructed by the American Bridge Company, a division of the United States Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana, and commissioned by C.F. Murphy Associates, designers of Daley Plaza. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) acted as architects for the sculpture and their archives provide a look into the mixed reception the artwork received in 1967. Today, the sculpture is generally considered one of the great public artworks in a city that's also home to major pieces by Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Jaume Plensa, and Anish Kapoor. SOM generously provided copies of letters to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that both praised and condemned the “pile of junk.” “I came, I saw, I left. How could you? And you look like such a nice person too. What is it?” asked Alexander Marxen in her letter to architect-in-charge William Hartmann of SOM. Roughly a year before the sculpture was complete, Paul Kiniery Ph.D. asked mayor Daley to cancel the whole project. “I hope very much that you, as the senior executive officer of the City of Chicago, will prevent this monstrosity from being erected in the plaza of the Civic Center. It will be humiliating and embarrassing for all of us who live in Chicago and to see this 'thing' when we are in the downtown area.” Others attacked Picasso himself. In another letter to Mayor Daley, Howard F. Bickler wrote, “You see, Mr. Mayor … Pablo Picasso is a Communist. A self-admitted Communist.” Mr. Bickler had a better idea for the plaza, suggesting “a giant cross or a symbol of the American eagle.” Harold B. Hozman felt that if people saw the work for what it was, “P. Picasso would only be another embittered, unknown, pitiful blotch.” Yet, not everyone was quite so cynical about the Cor-ten monument. A handwritten letter by Kathleen Chesbro, an eighth-grade student at Our Lady of Victory School, to the Mayor reads: “It expresses modern Chicago, how Chicago is now and what the people are like, and what Chicago will be in the future. Modern!” A personal letter from fellow architect Spencer B. Cone, of Cone and Dornbusch Architects, to William Hartmann compared the piece to some other famous icons. “I’m sure the statue will become our counterpart of such attractions as the Eiffel Tower and the Great Pyramids.” Citing rave reviews of Picasso’s show at the Tate that year, Charles A. Gianesi, M.D., chastised the Chicago American newspaper for giving “ammunition to the ignorant with front and back page exposure.” Also noting, “I don’t understand or appreciate Picasso I may some day (sic), and until then, I am content to accept the opinions of my cultural peers.” Along with providing the letters, Eric Keune, director at SOM and an expert on the Picasso, spoke with AN about the importance of the sculpture. “This piece broke the dam and opened the floodgates for abstraction to be accepted by the public, for it to be a subject of discourse among everyday Americans. It started a chain reaction, this first, then Calder at the Federal Center, then Chagall, then Miró, Henry Moore in 70 W. Madison, Calder in the Sears tower, and on and on, all the way through Millennium Park.”
Posts tagged with "Picasso":
New York City’s iconic Four Seasons Restaurant inside the Seagram Building is at the center of a renovation dispute
Traditionalists went into a tailspin over proposed modifications to the landmark Four Seasons Restaurant, a gastronomic and architectural emblem of New York City housed in the historic Seagram Building. The high-ceilinged enclave, clad with French walnut walls, plays daily host to high society a big business in Midtown Manhattan. The eatery garnered landmark status in 1989 for the building’s architectural prowess. Nevertheless, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) cautions that this designation does not shield the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, Florence Knoll banquettes, Eero Saarinen cocktail tables, and table settings by L. Garth Huxtable. Building owner and noted art collector Aby Rosen of RFR Holdings recently filed plans to make changes to the restaurant, reportedly without consulting owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder. While the LPC approved the proposed new carpeting without qualm, they balked at a removal of the cracked-glass and bronze partitions separating the dining area and bar. Originally installed by legendary architect Philip Johnson, who designed the space with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1959, the partitions would be replaced by movable ivy planters to open up the space. Selldorf Architects is also considering nixing the large walnut panels separating the square-shaped 60-foot-by-60-foot Pool Room from the dining room on the mezzanine. These will be replaced with five panels, the outer two of which would be operable for reconfiguration of the space. According to Rosen, this would improve the flow between the mezzanine and the Pool Room without the upper tier framing the space. “This landmark is elevated to a level where any kind of intervention would not be living with preservation,” objected LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. Conservationists bristled last year when Rosen entertained an eviction of the Le Tricorne Picasso tapestry hanging inside the restaurant in order to facilitate reparations to the wall behind it, where a “potentially serious steam leak” from the two-story kitchen had purportedly crippled the structure. The preservation commission retorted that removal of the tapestry would cause it to “crack like a potato chip.” A New York State judge issued an injunction prohibiting Seagram from removing the painting, but Rosen, a real estate developer and avid collector of post-war art, is in conservationists’ crossfire again for daring to alter a landmark. “These are features that are integral to the sense of space. Not just decorative but have architectural meaning and value,” said Commissioner Diana Chapin. Edgar Bronfman Jr., whose family owned Seagram, claimed that RFR’s proposal displays “utter contempt” for the icon. RFR representative Sheldon Werdiger maintains that the changes are restorative rather than invasive. “We’re not making changes as much as we’re restoring. Our local press is trying to make it into a controversial situation,” he told Arch Record.
Build me a library. Jerry Falwell Jr., current president and chancellor of Liberty University, will now see to it that there is also a library constructed in his remembrance. Inspired by Jeffersonian style, a favorite of the former minister, the library will be the largest building constructed on the university's campus. Liberty University has more info. It's that time of year again. Corn mazes are sprouting up all over the country and gaining popularity. The NY Times reports on how one family got lost and phoned in the authorities in order to be retrieved. Falling for the High Line. It's autumn in New York and the High Line blog featured a few photos of fall transforming the elevated park. Let the countdown begin. Picasso returns to the Guggenheim Museum in an exhibit that will exclusively showcase his black and white works. Drawings, paintings and sculptures from around the world will fill the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda, according to the NY Times.
A Quincy Jones' Brody House in LA's Holmby Hills has hit the market for a whopping $24.95 million, report the Wall Street Journal and LA Curbed. The 11,500 square foot modernist home has nine bedrooms, a tennis court, pool, and a guest house on 2.3 acres. It also features a floating staircase, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and plenty of indoor-outdoor spaces. Not coincidentally the art collection of the home's owners, Sydney F. and Frances Brody, is going up for auction today at Christie's in New York. It includes works by Picasso, Giacometti, Matisse, Degas, Renoir (not bad staging pieces for a house sale). The couple were founding benefactors of LACMA, major patrons of the Huntington Library and Gardens, and known for throwing legendary parties full of stars. Frances Brody died last November. We think Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt would like living here.