Towering over the Richard J. Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, this monumental statue known as The Picasso was one of the city’s first large-scale pieces of public art. Gifted by the famed Spanish artist himself in 1967. The 50 -foot (15-meter) Cubist work draws on many of Picasso’s artistic experiments over the years, with its dislocation and distortion of form, the basketwork structure connecting the minimalist facial contours with the huge steel wing-like structures for the hair that has drawn a range of different interpretations. Here is one that I can associate with, by the astrophysicist and writer, Janna Levin.
I lived about a mile away from this sculpture in Chicago, and I remember walking past it as a kid. Nobody mentioned it, nobody talked about it – I don’t even remember a plaque. But it was so extraordinary. It was my first intuitive introduction to public art, when I didn’t formally intend to go into a gallery and I wasn’t prepared for it. Here was this stunning monument, by Picasso – and the free public nature of it left a lasting impression on me. The piece itself is also weirdly beautiful and great: this bizarre “baboon” that stands 50 feet tall, with wings for hair. I grew up with a love for it, and I’m always excited when there’s some big monstrous crazy piece of art in the middle of a city, or in a field for that matter. I love the idea of stumbling across something and relating to it when you’re on your way somewhere else, with your mind somewhere else.