Chicago—famed for its architecture and public art—is also the location of the Monkey’s chance encounter with his photographer, way back in 1994. In this post, the Monkey revisits some of his old stomping grounds and takes in the grands projets of the Midwest’s Metropolis.
The Monkey took a cruise of the Chicago River highlighting the city’s rich modern architecture in order to get this stellar shot. In the distance, the black giant is the Sears Tower. In front of it is the postmodern 293 meter high-rise that went up at 311 South Wacker Drive in 1990. And the beautiful rounded building at right is River City, built by Chicago architect Bertram Goldberg, who studied at the Bauhaus School with Mies van der Rohe, in 1987. River City is a condominium complex complete with slips to park your yacht (OK, so it’s a little elitist, but the building is quite eye-catching just the same).
The Monkey toddling on “State Street, that great street,” as the song “Chicago” says. Across the street is the famous Chicago Theater, built in 1921 and home to concerts and theatrical presentations to this day. The theater’s vivid marquee is an unofficial symbol of the city.
The Monkey poses on a nifty handrail by the famed lions of the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicagoans are justifiably proud of their city’s best known art museum, and many a visitor cannot resist snapping a photo of these wise old lions guarding the museum’s entrance.
Founded in 1893 as Chicago sought to establish itself as a city of industry and culture, the Art Institute benefited from the patronage of early Chicago elites. These wealthy families took a particular liking to a new school of painting emanating from France in the late 19th Century, namely Impressionism. After the Chicago well-to-do had snatched up hundreds of works by new, “in” artists like Monet and Renoir, the Art Institute began receiving a considerable collection of donated pieces, many of which are today considered masterworks.
The Monkey hides in a hedge in front of Chicago’s Art Institute. The canyon-esque street running to the horizon is Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s answer to New York’s 5th Avenue.
The First National Plaza (then Bank One Plaza, then Exelon Plaza—annoying how U.S. corporations constantly change place names!) in Chicago’s Loop is a Modernist’s urban square par excellence. Orderly and open, its edges defined by the high-rise office buildings that surround it, the square fills with office workers on lunch break and quiets down considerably evenings and weekends. All the way across the plaza below the blue-glassed block is French artist Marc Chagall’s enormous Four Seasons mosaic. Chagall designed the installation for Chicago at the behest of two philanthropists, William and Eleanor Wood Prince. It was unveiled in 1974.
The Monkey would like to suggest a new name for the place—one that might last longer than the latest alpha bank: Chagall Plaza.
In the early 1960s, Chicago’s city government sought to contract a famous artist to build a monumental work for the plaza in front of the Richard J. Daley Center, a civic office building. Though they were uncertain if he would even consider the project, Chicago’s leaders approached Pablo Picasso. To their delight, he became quite enthusiastic about the idea, and in 1967 he donated a scale model of his design to the city of Chicago. Erected in the same brownish steel as the 198 meter modern tower it was meant to accompany, the unnamed sculpture’s curves and abstract shapes play off the right angles and sleek lines of the Daley Center in a tremendous fashion.
Though initial reactions to the strange 15 meter tall cubist “horse” were quite dismissive, public opinion eventually warmed to the so-called “Chicago Picasso.” Today it is another symbol of the city, beloved by tourists and locals alike. It’s not uncommon to spot office workers eating their lunch by its base while toddlers climb the ramp into the sculpture’s “guts.” The Monkey was happy to snap a shot of the Chicago Picasso and the Daley Center, which form a mini set-piece of modern art and architecture right in the heart of Chicago’s Loop.
The Monkey takes time to stop and smell the flowers. The gothic Tribune Tower (center-right) and the Moorish-influenced Wrigley Building (white, at left) in the distance form a sort of gateway to the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s ritzy shopping mecca on North Michigan Avenue.
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