Exploring Chicago: The Cloud Gate Controversy

Cloud Gate aka “The Bean”, located in Millennium Park, is one of the most photographed pieces of public art in Chicago.  The sculptor, Anish Kapoor, who created the 33′ x  66′ x 42′ piece from 168 highly polished stainless steel plates, claims to have a copyright on the work.  Any use of the photographs, other than “fair use” which is meant for educational or critical purposes, may be considered a copyright infringement.  The city will sell permits for those who want to use the photographs commercially.  It seems that after a sports writer was stopped by park security when trying  to take a photo in 2005, the city relaxed its permit to photograph requirements.  Now, film crews  of more than ten people are still required to buy a permit in order to photograph the sculpture.  However, the copyright laws apply to publishing.  (Here, I refer to Daniel Grant’s article in Sculpture Magazine, May 2005, Vol.24, No.4, http://www.sculpture.com)

Has Kapoor lost sight of the concept of his own work?  It’s surface reflects the city–by night and day–in snow and in rain.  Each photograph is a unique interaction with the piece and should be considered a work of art in itself. The public has rebelled; photographers freely publish their work on the Internet despite Kapoor’s restrictions.  One may ask:  Is public art for the aesthetic interpretation  of the public or is it for the aggrandizement of the artist?

Kapoor now has accused  China of infringing on his rights. Oil Bubble, a giant highly polished steel sculpture in the shape of an oil bubble in the city of Karamay, an oil town in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in Kapoor’s mind, is a direct copy of Cloud Gate.  Of course, the Chinese  disagree.  In their view, the Oil Bubble reflects the earth, while Cloud Gate reflects the sky and the City of Chicago. Kapoor wants to take legal action and even has asked  Mayor Rom Emmanuel for help in the matter.  Emmanuel’s laid back approach was reflected in his commenting that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

cloud gate
Cloud Gate, photographed by Nick Aguinaga
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Oil Bubble, photographed by China News Agency, Zhou Jianling
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Exploring Chicago: The Rookery Building

Having an early appointment in the Chicago Loop, we decided to take the Metra train from New Lennox. Our destination was the Jim Thompson Center at LaSalle and Randolph.  We arrived at the LaSalle Street station in little over an hour, finding that the train was the easiest way to make the journey with no downtown parking, no traffic to contend with, and plenty of time to relax and converse.

After leaving the station, we walked at a brisk pace north on LaSalle Street in unison with the other pedestrians who seemed to move with purpose and direction. It took us 12 minutes to reach the Center.  Whew! What a workout!  After our meeting with the manager of the Illinois Artisan Shop, we found that we had some free time.  Walking back to the station, we strolled leisurely, falling behind the fast paced foot traffic, looking up and around–drinking in the distinctive Chicago ambiance.

The first building which enticed us to explore it was The Rookery, at 209 South LaSalle Street, an historical landmark and the oldest standing early skyscraper in Chicago.  Built in 1885 by architects Burnham and Root, the red marble, terra cotta, and rusticated brick façade stood strong amidst the modern buildings which surrounded it in the center of Chicago’s Financial District.

The interior features a two story light court designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905.  It was restored to Wright’s original plans in 1989.  A magnificent symmetrical staircase invites one to enter and explore. Another spectacular semi-circular spiral staircase is found at the north end of the Lobby.

City Hall was located at this site until 1885.  Many crows and pigeons lived in the old structure back then.  Hence, the name The Rookery was born.  When the new building was created, the architects included crows in the terra cotta decorations that enhance The Rookery.  Many say that they are a metaphor for the “crowing” politicians who once inhabited the site.

If anyone wants to visit this iconic building, one may take a 30 minute inside tour on Mondays and Fridays at noon.

"Chicago Rookery Escalier Face" by Velvet, CC by SA 3.0
“Chicago Rookery Escalier Face” by Velvet, CC by SA 3.0