Best Public Art: Shiny Bean in Early Morning

by Sonny

Almost empty Cloud Gate

Almost empty Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, Chicago, is just amazing. Photos don't do it justice. If you're able to go there early in the morning, before things are crowded, you can have great fun making faces at yourself and generally acting a fool. I don't know which is more interesting, the "fun house" effect of the curved surface, or watching the people watching other people in the reflections. Awesome!

Is it public art? I don't know, but it's certainly an attention grabber.

Editors Respond:
Indeed, this is a fun, whimsical, and attention-grabbing piece of public art. Is it high art? We think probably not, but it certainly does draw a crowd.

Even more importantly within the context of Millennium Park, probably, is the fact that this piece becomes a real landmark because it is both quite unusual and also easily understood by even small children.

The value of landmarks within a city is great. Familiar landmarks find their way into hearts and develop loyalty to a city, a part of a city, and a particular place.

This landmark function does not receive enough attention when we speak about public art. To become a landmark, a piece must be easy to describe, easy to understand, and yet distinctive and unexpected. In a space such as a park, which in this case is a rectangle rather than a linear shape along a street, the landmark function can be even more important.

We suspect that it is no coincidence that this piece was chosen by our visitor as best public art, even though there are dozens of other public art installations within a few blocks of this location.

Yes, we agree with Sonny that the ability of this piece of public art to evoke silliness and play on the part of those who encounter it is part of its appeal. Certainly not all art or all public art has to have the ability to make us laugh, but when that element of fun is present, it sets up the likelihood that we will relate to the piece in a number of different moods over time if we live in proximity to it.

As Sonny points out, the fun is contagious. We don't even to be the ones doing the pantomine in front of a reflective surface; we can simply enjoy others taking advantage of the shiny bean. This contagion factor is what makes fountains so enjoyable, by the way; we don't have to be splashing in the fountain ourselves to enjoy squealing children and some adults acting like kids.

So this single entry brings up two more points for the public art selection committee to factor in: whimsy and potential to serve as a landmark.

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, Chicago, is just amazing. Photos don't do it justice. If you're able to go there early in the morning, before things are crowded, you can have great fun making faces at yourself and generally acting a fool. I don't know which is more interesting, the "fun house" effect of the curved surface, or watching the people watching other people in the reflections. Awesome!

Is it public art? I don't know, but it's certainly an attention grabber.

Editors Respond:
Indeed, this is a fun, whimsical, and attention-grabbing piece of public art. Is it high art? We think probably not, but it certainly does draw a crowd.

Even more importantly within the context of Millennium Park, probably, is the fact that this piece becomes a real landmark because it is both quite unusual and also easily understood by even small children.

The value of landmarks within a city is great. Familiar landmarks find their way into hearts and develop loyalty to a city, a part of a city, and a particular place.

This landmark function does not receive enough attention when we speak about public art. To become a landmark, a piece must be easy to describe, easy to understand, and yet distinctive and unexpected. In a space such as a park, which in this case is a rectangle rather than a linear shape along a street, the landmark function can be even more important.

We suspect that it is no coincidence that this piece was chosen by our visitor as best public art, even though there are dozens of other public art installations within a few blocks of this location.

Yes, we agree with Sonny that the ability of this piece of public art to evoke silliness and play on the part of those who encounter it is part of its appeal. Certainly not all art or all public art has to have the ability to make us laugh, but when that element of fun is present, it sets up the likelihood that we will relate to the piece in a number of different moods over time if we live in proximity to it.

So this single entry brings up two more points for the public art selection committee to factor in: whimsy and potential to serve as a landmark.


> > > Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

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