The unseen art museum

November 15, 2010 (OAKBROOK)

But if I say McDonald's and 'art collection,' that might not quite fit for you.

The fast food chain does have a huge, rarely-seen art collection, with much of it at the corporate campus in west suburban Oakbrook.

ABC7's cameras are believed to the first to have ever been given total access.

The corporate campus is composed of 80 wooded acres purchased in 1978, with the first building erected in 1983.

One sculpture in bronze was commissioned by the company's second chief executive officer, Fred Turner. It could be called the campus centerpiece, and it started the art collection. It depicts a family meeting for lunch and, as you might guess, dad is bringing a bag of McDonald's food.

From that first sculpture, the collection has grown to nearly 4,000 pieces. The art is everywhere and is a part of everyday life for McDonald's corporate workers and visitors.

A black marble sculpture by Jose Moreno greets guests from around the world checking in to the hotel on campus.

A worker passes a window with a beautiful view - but it isn't a window. It is a piece of art titled "Bay Window" done by Ken Moylan.

One hallway is lined with beautiful glass art. It seems that there is art on every wall on every floor.

Even an outdoor lunch break on a warm fall day is taken next to a sculpture by Robert Winslow. I sat down with curator Susan Pertl under another Winslow sculpture, this one 18 feet of black granite titled "Totem". She explained what she sees as the connection between art and corporate success.

"It just stimulates creativity and it makes a wonderful working environment," said Pertl. "When people come in from other countries, they're sitting in a room where there's always a piece of art that can start a conversation where that might not happen if they were just sitting in a room with just desks and chairs."

There are conversation starters such as a piece titled "Apathetic Angel" by Alison Saar. It is made of pieces fashioned from old tin ceilings.

One Ron Isaacs piece titled "Tan Silk Bodice" does look like silk. It is actually a wood carving.

A piece by Richard Feese is titled "Sentinel Goose." At first glance, it could be called spare parts.

The McDonald's collection concentrates on emerging artists. A glass bowl and some other glass shapes, called sea forms, were done by Dale Chihuly. Yes, the world-famous Dale Chihuly who mounted the show done at the Garfield Park Conservatory back in 2002.

These McDonald's pieces, however, were purchased a long time ago.

"Our pieces came very early in his career, when he was still involved with the glass school pilchuk just outside Seattle," said Pertl.

Just to show the company has a sense of humor, there are the occasional bits of whimsy. In the main lobby of one building there are two boys flying a kite that reminds us of just what product paid for the art.

In a rare opportunity for the public to see some of the McDonald's collection, there is a show under way at the Lubeznik Art Center in Michigan City, Indiana.

Information from Lubeznik Center website

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