By Amy Tara Koch
October 27, 2014
Charles O. Cecil / Alamy

In Chicago, art is a part of life. We have world class museums at our disposal, yes. But, thanks to the commitment of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Chicagoans have friction with creativity on a daily basis as they interact with the more than 7000 pieces of public artworks displayed throughout the metropolis. It all began in 1967 when Mayor Richard J. Daley commissioned the monumental Picasso sculpture to preside over the government space that is now called Daley Plaza. The piece was groundbreaking in size and the fact that it was a modernist artwork, not a historical figure. After some controversy, the cubist sculpture became a Chicago landmark and inspired more large scale commissions to enhance the city’s architecture. Now, Chicago is recognized as a leader in public art and boasts masterpieces from celebrated artists like Miro, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Dubuffet and Claes Oldenberg. Visiting them is free and open to the public.

Crown Fountain at Millennium Park

Part video installation, part play area, Jaume Plensa’s black granite reflecting pool banked between two 50-foot towers is true interactive art. As visitors splash about, images of people-actually, Chicagoans shot by students from the School of the Art Institute, flash on the screens and appear to playfully spit water into the wading pool beneath.

Picasso at Daley Plaza

The 60s were all about change. So, Mayor Richard J. Daley decided to try something new. He commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a massive 3D sculpture for the Chicago Loop. But, what does this cubist creation represent? Nobody knows. Picasso gave it to the city as a gift and never explained what it symbolized.

Cloud Gate at Millennium Park

One of the largest outdoor sculptures in the world, Anish Kapoor’s giant stainless steel orb known as “the bean” glimmers majestically from its perch smack in the middle of Millennium Park. The sculpture’s reflective quality emit stunning images of the skyline from every direction. It’s undulant shape allows visitors to walk inside the structure.

Dubuffet Sculpture: Monument with Standing Beast

Inspired by “Art Brut”, or, outsider art, Dubuffet’s love of contemporary graffiti and a unique street style is evident in this multi-dimensional fiber glass sculpture. The artist designed the piece to feel like a “drawing that extends into space”. It’s openness invites visitors to enter the structure to explore.

Alexander Calder’s Flamingo Sculpture

This bright, exotic looking “stabile” stands in stark contrast to the Bauhaus style office buildings in its midst. And, that was the plan. Though it clashes with Mies Van Der Rohe’s serious glass and steel structures, Calder’s massive curvilinear sculpture succeeds in visually anchoring the office plaza.