To most people, this stainless steel figure is a work of art – but to tourists, it’s the best opportunity for a selfie. The Cloud Gate sculpture also known as ‘the Bean,’ is one of the top things to see in Chicago. The bean is a large public sculpture that was unveiled at the opening of Millennium Park in 2004. It now serves as a famous symbol of Chicago and is one of the city’s most photographed attractions.
Cloud Gate is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, that is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop community area of Chicago,Illinois. The sculpture and AT&T Plaza are located on top of Park Grill, between the Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. Constructed between 2004 and 2006, the sculpture is nicknamed The Bean because of its shape. Made up of 168 stainless steelplates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams. It measures 33 by 66 by 42 feet (10 by 20 by 13 m), and weighs 110 short tons (100 t; 98 long tons).
The Bean is one of the best ways to capture Chicago’s beautiful skyline while still being in the photo. Designed by the London-based artist, Anish Kapoor, his work was selected out of two proposals that were submitted in 1999 for a ‘showpiece’ sculpture that would sit in Millennium Park. At first, many Chicagoans were extremely critical of this piece of metal – especially since the structure was under construction during the inauguration of the park in 2004. Anish Kapoor did not completely finish the sculpture until May 2006 when it was really displayed as a magical visual.
Kapoor’s design was inspired by liquid mercury and the sculpture’s surface reflects and distorts the city’s skyline. Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate’s 12-foot (3.7 m) high arch. On the underside is the “omphalos” (Greek for “navel”), a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. The sculpture builds upon many of Kapoor’s artistic themes, and it is popular with tourists as a photo-taking opportunity for its unique reflective properties.
Even before it was given an official title, Chicagoans were quick to dub the reflective steel sculpture ‘the Bean’ after its peculiar shape. However, it’s official title is ‘Cloud Gate’ since 80% of its surface reflects the sky and bends the reflection down into a gate shape.
Millennium Park is located in the heart of downtown Chicago. It is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south. Today, The Bean has multiple geotags on Snapchat and it’s comical how people always seem to have the urge to touch the sculpture’s silvery surface. Cleaners come twice a day, once in the early morning, and once at night, to polish and clean the entire thing. Meanwhile, there are cleaners who come and wipe down the bottom six feet (to get rid of fingerprints) up to seven times a day! The Cloud Gate is an icon of Chicago, and one of the best attractions that every visitor to the city should take the time to see.