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What Sort of Cloud Gate is the Chicago Bean?

What Sort of Cloud Gate is the Chicago Bean?


More commonly dubbed “The Chicago Bean,” Cloud Gate rests at the heart of The Windy City, in Millenium Park. Known for its distinctive kidney-bean shape and silver surfer polish, it is arguably the most famous landmark in Chicago.

Cloud Gate celebrates art & culture

Anish Kapoor, the British-Indian artist who designed Cloud Gate, wanted to create something that “would lead viewers to the vortex underneath it.” 

The gleaming stainless steel structure gracefully curves in on itself, beckoning visitors to come closer and examine their reflections.

And at a distance, Cloud Gate reflects the light and beauty of the Chicago skyline with a mesmerizing result. One that the artist describes as “powerful.” 

The Chicago Bean presents an artistic ambiguity that perfectly fits the monumental sculpture and its public art contemporaries. Either make it big, make it red or make it shiny. Bonus points if you can do multiples of those in the same piece. 

Master of Silver Bean Chicago

Kapoor is an exceptional artist in a variety of materials, from stone and wax to mirrors. Cloud Gate is his largest outdoor installation and a reflection of his interest in negative space. Which he describes as, “The void, the moment when it isn’t a hole. It is a space full of what isn’t there.”

Kapoor says of his work on the sculpture, “Cloud Gate reflects the space around it, the city of Chicago. People visit the sculpture for so many experiences. To get married, to meet friends, to take selfies, to dance, to jump, to engage in a communal experience.

Cloud Gate - The Bean - Chicago
Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean,” is a favorite stop in Chicago. [Photo by Ravi Patel/Unsplash]

The Chicago Bean is a mirrored form, simultaneously engulfing and intimate. The silver bean Chicago brings the viewer in close. And judging by the number of people that visit it every day (two-hundred million to date); the Bean seems to carry the potential to communicate a sense of wonder.”

From silver to the “blackest black”

However, in 2016 Kapoor angered the art world by buying the exclusive rights to the “blackest black” in the world, vantablack.

Vantablack is said to absorb 99.96 percent of all light, producing a visual vacuum and an otherworldly visual experience. The pigment created by the UK firm, Surrey NanoSystems, was originally constructed to be used on stealth fighter jets.

Uproars about one artist having the sole rights to a unique material. The action created a divisive conversation within the arts community about artistic monopoly and narcissism.

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A very popular Silver Bean

Nonetheless, Kapoor attributes the popularity of the Chicago bean to its adoring residents and tourists, saying, “A mirror of self and other, both private and collective, Cloud Gate—or the ‘Bean’ as it often affectionately referred to—is an inclusive work that engages public participation.

“Its success has little to do with me, but rather with the thousands of residents and visitors who have adopted it and embraced it as their Bean. Cloud Gate has become a democratic object in a space that is free and open to all.”

Anish Kapoor

A Cloud Gate to the best of Chicago

Unveiled in 2004, the Chicago Bean is just over 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, and 66 feet long. It weighs an impressive 110 tons and cost $23 million to construct.

The massive sculpture, modeled to resemble the fluidity of liquid mercury, requires cleaning twice a day. A necessity to rid the sculpture of “gifts” left by Millennium Park’s resident bird population and fingerprints left by visitors.

Visitors can find Cloud Gate inside AT&T Plaza, within Millennium Park in the heart of downtown Chicago. The park is bordered by the city’s famed Michigan Avenue. Where visitors will find some of the world’s best restaurants and luxury brands.

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