Public art is a plenty in Chicago. However, nothing quite compares to Picasso's unnamed statue located in Daley Plaza (50 W Washington St). On Thursdays through October 27, you can enjoy lunch with a view at the Daley Plaza Farmers Market.
Is it a pigeon? A skeleton? A hungry insect? An Afghan hound? Theories abound but no one knows for sure what exactly Picasso intended to portray with his iconic, unnamed, 50 foot tall steel sculpture. Some say it's a woman's head, inspired by one of Picasso's muses, a French woman named Lydia Corbett. Others believe it depicts Picasso's friend's Afghan Hound. Some say it's a baboons head; others believe it's an Egyptian deity. Many are convinced it's an abstract pigeon; perhaps this is what draws many of the dastardly city birds to the surrounding Daley Plaza. The renowned artist never revealed what the statue represented.
Poetry set the statue in motion when Chicago architect Richard Bennett wrote Picasso a poem asking him to make a sculpture for the city. Picasso accepted, later noting "You know I never accept commissions to do any sort of work, but in this case I am involved in projects for the two great gangster cities" (Chicago and Marseille, France). He was offered a $100,000 payment but refused; the grand sculpture would be Picasso's gift to the city of Chicago.
Every Thursday, farmers and vendors from all over the Midwest set up shop in Daley Plaza for the longest running Farmers Market in Chicago. From 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., May 12 - October 27, 2016, you'll find everything you need for a picnic with the Chicago Picasso: fresh produce, bakery goods, seasonal spreads, jams and jellies, honey, cheeses, and more. BYOB and set up your urban picnic at one of the benches located in the plaza.
The beloved sculpture of today wasn't received with open arms. At the dedication ceremony on August 15, 1967, Mayor Richard J. Daley pulled a ribbon, unveiling the sculpture; despite a few hesitant applauses, the crowd mostly gasped and stood silent. Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko wrote that the sculpture had a "long stupid face...like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect...Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible." Despite the crowd's silently stunned reaction, Mayor Daley had unwitting foresight when he declared, "We dedicate this celebrated work this morning with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow."
Bonus: Nearly directly south of the Chicago Picasso lies another magnificent Chicago public art masterpiece: Joan Miró's Miró's Chicago (originally called The Sun, the Moon and One Star), a 39-foot tall abstract sculpture unveiled in 1981 by Mayor Jane Byrne.
Daley Plaza Farmers Market
50 W Washington St
- Dates: Thursdays, May 12 - October 27, 2016
- Hours: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- Admission: FREE