art handling

Public Art in Downtown Chicago

Since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, building a better city has been a top priority for Chicagoans. Celebrated architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan flocked here to build the city that we know today. Alongside architecture, public art has been a fixture of Chicago aesthetics for decades. The city’s public art includes some exemplary pieces of modernist art. Here are the stories behind four sculptures that define public art in downtown Chicago.

THE PICASSO

Designed by Pablo Picasso in 1967, this piece is technically unnamed, but is colloquially referred to as “the Picasso.” It was one of the first public sculptures to be placed downtown and sits in Daley Plaza inside the Loop. Commissioned by the architects of the Richard J. Daley Center, Picasso refused the payment for the piece, instead creating the sculpture as a gift to the city of Chicago. The Picasso looks a bit like a jungle gym and it is not uncommon to see visitors of the plaza climbing on and around the sculpture.

ALEXANDER CALDER’S FLAMINGO

Head a few blocks south in the Loop and you will find yourself dwarfed by the Flamingo, a large vermillion abstract sculpture sitting in the Federal Plaza. Alexander Calder designed this sculpture in 1974, clocking in at an epic weight of 50 tons. Calder wanted his sculpture to wind and arch, a curving pop of color surrounded by monumental steel buildings. Flamingo was the first sculpture to be unveiled under the Percent for Art program—a program which administers a percentage of the city budget to public art. 

Left: Pablo Picasso, Untitled, 1967. Right: Alexander Calder,  Flamingo , 1974.

Left: Pablo Picasso, Untitled, 1967. Right: Alexander Calder, Flamingo, 1974.


JOAN MIRO’S CHICAGO

Down the street from Picasso’s sculpture is a work by contemporary master Joan Miró, fittingly titled Chicago. This piece was unveiled in Brunswick Plaza by Chicago’s first female mayor Jane Byrne in 1981. Miró’s sculpture is a 40-foot statue of a woman tucked between two skyscrapers. It is a mixed media sculpture—steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze and ceramic tile produce Chicago.


ANISH KAPOOR’S CLOUD GATE

 Known to all Chicagoans and visitors as “The Bean,” this sculptural feat is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the whole city. Contrary to popular belief, the actual name of Anish Kapoor’s sculpture is not The Bean—it’s Cloud Gate. Kapoor’s design was based on liquid mercury and consists of 168 stainless steel plates welded together. The highly polished structure is a mirror to Millennium Park and the buildings that surround it. The bean-shape bends and curves giving viewers a perfect photo opportunity as the reflections are distorted. The sculpture was the product of a design competition and debuted in 2004.

Left: Joan Miró,  Chicago , 1981. Right: Anish Kapoor,  Cloud Gate , 2004.

Left: Joan Miró, Chicago, 1981. Right: Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2004.

Chicago is known for its public art, from sculptures to murals to interactive pieces in parks. Public art is meant to be enjoyed by the people and be accessible to all. Sometimes that accessibility leads to rare acts of vandalism. Just last week, Cloud Gate was tagged with spray paint. According to the Chicago Tribune, workers were able to remove the graffiti quickly and restore Chicago’s iconic sculpture.

In our work as art consultants, we have worked on a variety of projects involving public art or conservation. We have coordinated the moving and storage of large-scale outdoor sculptures. We also work with talented conservators to restore artwork when accidents happen. Helping companies find, install, and protect art for the enjoyment of their employees, customers, and the public is one of our chief joys as a company.

. . .

Looking for a Sign

Firm Principal and Founder, Jaime DeGroot, reflects on three years in business–the ups and the downs, the chaos and the accomplishments.

Jaime and our new office sign

Jaime and our new office sign

Our company was born out of necessity and therefore, in a rush. We quickly put together the best framework we could just to get up and running. Since then, we have slowed everything down and made a business of carefully considering everything that goes into art consulting. We try to plan for everything, obsess over the smallest details, overpack, and overthink every turn before we make it.

Although we work in a visual industry, a lot of our work is invisible. Behind every piece of art hanging on a crisp wall is a myriad of unseen considerations: construction schedules, transportation, insurance, hardware, and proper cleaning, to name just a few.

Because each project is very different, we start fresh every time and build on our arsenal of knowledge to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Inevitably, there are things you cannot plan for and unexpected mishaps–but finding the best solution for any situation we face during a project is our forte. It is this experience in problem solving that defines the work we do for clients as well as the small business hurdles we face daily and in unexpected ways.

I know there are many people out there who can relate to the sleepless nights, financial bottlenecks, and the heartburn that comes with running a small business. I try to remember that everyone is facing struggles on some level–big and small. When we have had a particularly stressful day, when the challenges are new or completely unexpected, I am left looking for a sign that I am doing the right thing. That sign was literal this past week: the signage for the new office we moved into this year arrived, just in time for our third anniversary.

Taking stock of these past three years, I can certainly say it was sometimes tough. But on a daily basis I am reminded of how much easier it is when you are working with a team of passionate and capable individuals. Add to that a roster of clients that are increasingly passionate and pleasant by the day, a community of talented artists, and a network of incredibly knowledgeable vendors, and you have yourself a wonderful job. When people learn about our occupation, they usually say how fun it sounds, and mostly, it is.

As I look down on this small sign that took a village to hang (Thanks, Aron) showcasing a logo that was essentially procured overnight (Thanks, Joel), I am astonished at what my community has accomplished during these three years. Many thanks to our new neighbors for welcoming us into the 1709 W. Chicago fold and especially to my team members, Brontë, Julia, and Keiko who will forever hold an office in my heart. It is only by your grace and skill that we have been able to hang the DeGroot Fine Art sign–and a lot of beautiful art.

. . .

An Intern's Perspective on Art Consulting

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

Bynn Shen, Spring Intern 2019

This spring, DeGroot Fine Art had the opportunity to hire an intern through a program with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We really enjoy getting to know young, emerging arts professionals. Not only do we get to share our knowledge of the field, but often our interns contribute meaningful work to our business. On the last day of her internship, Bynn Shen reflects on her experiences this semester.


Lessons from My Internship

I’m a mostly self-taught artist with an extensive background in painting and drawing. My current approach to art-making is much more traditional than some of my peers, as I create realistic renderings of the world. Coming from a traditional Chinese family, over the years I have developed a technical skill set and emphasized it throughout my artwork. I’ve always been drawn to color and the way certain colors interact with others­–so in everything I do, I’m always working with a lot of saturated and pastel colors and straying away from dark colors like black. While a student at SAIC, I’ve been focusing on Visual Communication Design while taking some painting and drawing classes here and there. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my time at DeGroot Fine Art:

Connect with the Art Community

A big part of being an art consultant in Chicago is being aware of what is happening in the community by going to artists’ studios and visiting galleries to see work in person as well as looking online to see new artists and work. The studio visits were important to establish connections with the artists to become more aware of possible options for clients.

Prioritize the Safety of Artwork

I was able to learn about caring and packaging artwork, making sure the artwork was as safe as possible and ready to hand over to the client. There were different care options for different surfaces such as not using Windex on plexiglass and only using a microfiber cloth to buff out fingerprints on museum glass.

Bring All of Your Skills to the Job

Because DeGroot Fine Art is a growing company, there is a demand for building its identity by maintaining the website and writing blog posts and contributing to the aesthetics page, but also designing some social media graphics. I’m not as experienced in graphic design as I am in fine art, but from the classes I’ve taken at SAIC and projects I’ve worked on, I was able to use the knowledge for some of the designs I did here. When designing the social media graphics and brand identity for DeGroot Fine Art, I focused on making a cohesive body of work where everything looked unified and clean. In any type of art, it’s important to think thoroughly about every element of the piece and making sure it has a purpose.

Interning here exposed me even more to Chicago’s art community, as well as the corporate world. There were a few times when I heard artists mentioned and was surprised to learn about their connection to my school. From my experience here, I will definitely be able to refer back to some of the Chicago artists I learned and researched about as well as caring for artwork like my own. There are definitely many logistics that come with caring for art and preserving its life, so it was really great to learn from experienced art consultants.

Interning at an art consultancy firm was definitely informative, especially for a working artist. Seeing how art is used within corporate companies and interior spaces was informative. In the future, I could definitely see myself working in the art world, potentially working at an art consultancy firm like DeGroot Fine Art while also continuing my own artistic practice.

. . .

Meet Our New Team Member: Brontë Mansfield

Brontë Mansfield.jpeg

At the start of the New Year, Brontë joined the DeGroot Fine Art team as a Project Assistant, focusing on marketing for new projects. Here’s how Brontë came to the art world and our company:

In 2010, Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei unveiled a new installation at Tate Modern in London. The installation, Kui Hua Zi, spread 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds over the floor of a single gallery. Each seed–every one of the hundred million–was shaped, fired, and painted by hand. It took over a thousand workers in a Chinese town more than two years to produce all of the seeds.

And there I was, 17 years old and standing in front of all of those seeds, the first time I set foot in an art museum. If I had scooped up a hundred of the porcelain seeds in my hands, I would have held more seeds than there were people in my hometown in rural Wisconsin. Another handful and that would probably be more than all of the people I had met in my life.

After years of cornfields and football, I did not know what to do with myself in a bustling foreign city. But then I found subways, coffee shops, bookstores, and–mostly importantly–all of the free art museums in the city. Even at seventeen, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life around art.

I returned to the states to go to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a freshman, I was hired as an assistant to the Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Chazen Museum of Art. One of my first days at the museum, I was tasked with helping reframe a six-foot-long ink drawing by another famed Chinese artist, Xu Bing. I am proud to say that I didn't buckle under the high pressure and have been professionally handling art ever since.

During my time at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I specialized in Victorian art history and literature, writing my thesis on nineteenth-century paintings of mermaids and Darwinian theories of evolution–but also wrote for the school newspaper and worked as an editor at the campus magazine. In 2014, I was awarded a Beinecke Scholarship to study at the graduate school of my choice. I decided to leave academia and pursue journalism, to help share stories of art and culture to as many people as I could.

In 2017, I received my Masters in New Arts Journalism from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). During graduate school, I worked in the school's Marketing & Communications department and was also asked to assistant teach a class on contemporary art history. Even though the art I knew best was made before the Titanic sank, I threw myself into the world of modern and contemporary art–and even started working as a studio manager for a Chicago-based artist.

During graduate school, I focused on audio production and storytelling. In addition to my work as a freelance audio producer, I have worked as a production & recording assistant for the Art Institute of Chicago and recently joined the faculty at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, teaching podcasting and video essays.

I am thrilled to be able to merge my background in both fine art and journalism in my new role as Project Assistant at DeGroot Fine Art. I look forward to sharing more stories from the world of art consulting with our clients and anyone interested in collecting, preserving, and supporting fine art.

. . .


All About Printmaking

The art of printmaking is comprised of a variety of techniques and materials and has ancient roots in many cultures. A discipline central to the history of art as well as contemporary art, we encounter fine art prints in many--if not most--of our clients' corporate and private collections, and we often get questions about the types, care and terminology surrounding the field of printmaking. While printmaking is an incredibly historic, diverse and deep field of study that can't be summarized in one blog post, here are some responses and resources addressing just a few of the questions we receive the most. 

What is a print? 

The Tate Modern website defines a print as "...an impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another." The image is created when ink is transferred onto paper, cloth, or another surface using one of a variety of materials and methods. A printed impression can be unique (monoprint/ monotype) or part of a limited edition of prints. 

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/print

What types of prints are there? 

Printmakers use many techniques and often combine techniques to achieve their desired impression. The most common types of printing techniques we encounter are Lithography, Intaglio, Relief, Screenprinting and Digital printing. Within these broad categories are a plethora of techniques and materials. 

You can find some great explanations and examples of different printmaking techniques here: http://www.paceprints.com/techniques

Is a print a reproduction or an original work of art?

Fine art prints are original works of art created using methods and techniques of printmaking. A limited edition results from an artist using the same plate or block to create multiple identical impressions of the same image, and each impression is recorded with an edition number.  

A print is not a reproduction of an existing painting or drawing. 

How should I display or store my print? 

Because many prints are printed with ink on paper, great care should be taken in storing and displaying prints. To prevent common conservation issues such as paper deterioration, discoloration, buckling and fading, prints should always be stored and displayed in archival, acid-free materials, with protection from excess humidity and ultraviolet light. Learn more about our recommendations for storing and displaying artwork here.

What do the numbers and markings on my print mean?

Along with signing and titling their prints, artists mark their prints in pencil with an edition number. Prints are labeled with the impression number and a slash indicating the total number of prints in the edition (ie. 5/10). There are other markings designating the type of impression in an edition, such as A/P (Artist's Proof), B.A.T (Bon a Tirer) or T/P (Trial Proof).

Here is a helpful link explaining different conventions artists use to label a print as well as common printmaking terminology. https://www.nga.gov/gemini/glossary.htm

Happy collecting! 

. . .