If not all, most people are familiar with the public sculpture, Cloud Gate, that stands in the heart of Chicago’s Millennium Park. The sculpture, better known as “The Bean,” was brought to life by British artist Anish Kapoor and has transcended its position as merely a physical structure that mirrors the city’s landscape. The monument also reflects the disposition of unification and connectivity aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of building Sustainable Cities and Communities. 

Born in India, Kapoor’s work often reflects themes of scale, shape, and perception. His artistic expertise in distorting images and blurring the line between limit and limitless paved the way for Cloud Gate which is also one of the first public outdoor works of the artist in the United States. This artistic endeavour can also be seen recurring in Sky Mirror, a public sculpture whose surface reflects the changing environment.  

Sky Mirror, 2006 at the Rockefeller Center. Photo by Seong Kwon. Image courtesy of Public Art Fund.

Undoubtedly, Kapoor’s sculptures have transformed urban spaces into colourful cultural hubs. In regards to Cloud Gate, the park where it’s situated has become one of the prominent tourist destinations in Chicago, promoting economic development and community involvement. Through this work, along with many others, Kapoor exemplifies how public art can improve a city’s livability by encouraging inclusion.  

Cloud Gate aka "The Bean" by Anish Kapoor. Image courtesy of Choose Chicago.

Visitors are invited to touch and engage with its mirror-like surface, which reflects the activities and lights of the park and surrounding city skyline, allowing them to see their image mirrored from a variety of angles. 

“In one way, ‘Cloud Gate’ is mine. But, in another way, it has taken on all kinds of other lives,”  said the sculptor in an interview with Chicago Sun Times. 

In addition, the architecture and upkeep of Cloud Gate demonstrate Kapoor’s dedication to durability and sustainability. Despite its massive weight and intricate design, the sculpture is engineered to withstand the test of time, with Kapoor's contract stating an expected lifespan of 1,000 years. 

Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture has an all stainless steel exterior. It was made by accurately cutting 168 large steel plates with computer technology, fitting them together, and welding them close together to achieve how it stands today. The meticulous care taken in its daily and semi-annual cleanings, using eco-friendly detergents, underscores the commitment to preserving this artistic marvel for future generations. 

Anish Kapoor. Photo by Jack Hems. Image courtesy of Lisson Gallery; retrieved from The Art Newspaper.

Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate stands not only as a triumph of artistic vision and engineering prowess but also as a symbol of unity and connection. Its reflective surfaces remind us of the interconnectedness of our cities and communities, urging everyone to build environments that celebrate diversity and promote sustainability.

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