This weekend while was visiting Chicago, my mom and I went to an exhibit at the Art Institute about Pablo Picasso and his relationship with the city. Picasso actually never visited the Chicago–or any city in America–but he left his mark here, culminating in his design and gift of the famous sculpture that sits in front of Daley Plaza. Some have compared it to a dog, although it is thought to be his interpretation of a woman. Leading up to its debut in 1967, “Chicago Picasso,” as it is now called, was very controversial because as the first major public art piece in the city’s downtown, it promised to be very different from most civic sculptures, which were of historical figures.
The exhibit does a great job of conveying how the Chicago and Picasso relationship paved the way for the city’s embrace of modern art. This began in 1913 when the Art Institute became the first to display works of the artist. Chicago has always been known for its embrace of the modern, in the form especially of breathtaking architecture. While many cities are plagued with modern edifices that people want to get rid of, Chicago seems to stand apart as a city that has embraced and advanced all that’s good of modern architecture–from Louis Sullivan to Frank Lloyd Wright to Millenium Park.
I’ve always taken Chicago Picasso for granted, so learning that it stirred so much controversy and befuddlement over whether the statue was of a dog was really interesting and amusing.