Picasso sculpture celebrates 50th anniversary in Daley Plaza

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017 05:27PM
Chicago's iconic Picasso sculpture turns 50 this month. On Tuesday, a celebration led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel was held at noon at Daley Plaza.


CHICAGO - Chicago's iconic Picasso sculpture turns 50 this month. On Tuesday, a celebration led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel was held at noon at Daley Plaza.

Mayor Emanuel has designated 2017 as the year of public art, so celebrating the 50th anniversary of Chicago's Picasso fits right in.

Half a century after its original unveiling, the unnamed statue remains as mysterious as ever. Spectators said they thought it looks like a dog, a bird, and a horse.

Picasso himself never said what it was, or gave it a name, or even visited the city he gave it to.

"Was it a joke on us? Had we been had? What the hell was it?" said Mark Kelly, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

But it marked a significant change in the concept of public art in Chicago which, until that time, had mainly been commemorative monuments of notable people.

"Chicago's Picasso, like the best of our public art, changes the meaning of what art is, what it can do, and who it is for," said Lisa Yun Lee, Public Housing Museum.

Tuesday's ceremony restaged the original 1967 unveiling of the now iconic sculpture at noon - the actual time the Picasso was originally presented 50 years ago. On that day in 1967, thousands showed up for the unveiling.

Mike and Pat Symanski were in the audience Tuesday as they were for the originally unveiling 50 years ago, when they stayed for the ceremony after applying for their marriage license in the county building.

"The sculpture has lasted 50 years, our marriage has lasted 50 years, which is above average I guess," Mike said.

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks also composed and delivered a poem for the occasion in 1967. Her daughter recited her mother's poem at the ceremony Tuesday.

Over the years the appreciation for the sculpture has grown. It's a popular meeting place for friends, and kids enjoy sliding on it. At times it stands in as a mascot for Chicago's different sports teams. It's as much a symbol of Chicago as anything else.

"The openness about what she, it, he giraffe, dog woman, I don't know, is such a big part of the city of Chicago," said

The unnamed statue is 50-feet tall on a base of granite and weighs more than 160 tons. It's built of the same steel material as the exterior of the Daley center. In the 1960s, at the request of William Hartmann, Senior Partner at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Picasso designed the monumental artwork to relate to the Civic Center on what is known today as Daley Plaza.

In his dedication letter, Picasso gave the sculpture as a gift to the people of Chicago, without ever explaining what the sculpture was intended to represent. To this day people still argue about what it looks like.
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