fine art services

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.

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Have Art, Will Travel

The site of a recent project in Denver, CO

The site of a recent project in Denver, CO

While many of our clients are headquartered in downtown Chicago, we work on projects throughout the region and country. Corporate art advising often involves large-scale logistics management between offices; many art collections are spread out between numerous offices and storage locations, so we manage artwork movements on our clients’ behalf.

All Our Services, in Any Location

We provide all of our fine art services in any location requested. Because we operate a primarily paperless office, we can work on-the-go with remote access to our project materials. The key components of our projects are managed on digital platforms, including collection inventories, exhibition design, and artwork installation strategy. This gives us the flexibility to manage and update projects while travelling wherever our clients need us.

In a few recent projects, we inventoried 700 artworks in a law firm’s in New York City office; installed a 500-piece collection in Washington, D.C.; sourced historical materials from corporate archives in Seattle, Los Angeles, and St Louis; and organized a rotating artwork exhibition in a Denver skyscraper.

Suburbs, Small Towns, and Cities

We are keen to travel for projects of various scales. We regularly install and relocate artwork for clients with suburban branches in the Midwest: throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio. Our team of art handlers travels with us for Midwestern projects and can provide exclusive-use shipping options for the artwork.

As well as offices, we visit client storage spaces to recommend options for installation. Corporate collections are often full of surprising artworks that can be forgotten in storage. It’s fascinating to comb through stored artwork and archives and find items that will be a great fit for a new space. During this type of project we also make recommendations about work that may need a new frame or conservation. We've recently travelled to Columbus, OH to reinstall artwork in a renovated office; transported artwork from storage in Chicago to Ann Arbor, MI, where we selected and installed art that complemented a newly-implemented design program; and acquired, framed, and shipped artwork for an office in Des Moines, IA.

When on the road for work, we take advantage of the opportunity to see fine art institutions that are otherwise too far for a casual visit. We love meeting with galleries that serve similar communities and learning about local artists that exhibit there.

Site Visits

For multi-phase projects, we prefer to schedule a site visit to learn more about the location. Areas of new construction can change dramatically from the initial floor plans we receive, and it's better to understand which artworks will be most impactful by visiting a space in person. This also gives us a chance to strategize with local project managers, see how the design strategy is implemented, and learn about local artists, galleries, and institutions. 

Working with the Local Art Community

We work with elite professionals across the country and make it a priority to support local art communities wherever we work. During our site visits we schedule meetings with prominent galleries and institutions to learn about notable local artists and fine art movements that are important to that area. Every region has its own distinct history and fine art traditions. When we highlight artwork unique to a specific community, that focus fosters a sense of pride in the people who occupy that office.  

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Five Takeaways From a Decade in Art Consulting

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Over the past 10 years, I have managed art collections for a diverse group of clients, ranging from large, international banks and law firms, to manufacturing and industrial companies, to small family businesses and private residences. Naturally, every one of these clients has a different method of operating and a different process for building an art collection. Some collections are committee-managed, some are executive-managed, and all are influenced by unique culture and goals. Despite the differences I've encountered, there are five central points to keep in mind while navigating the world of art collecting.  

Quality Comes in Many Styles

In working with a variety of clients, you will encounter not only a wide range of art collection goals, but also many styles of aesthetic preferences. Some clients are interested in historic maps and prints, some want a collection that reflects their company's core values, some want to use their proprietary archival material, and some want cutting-edge contemporary artwork. The good news is that the art world is large enough to account for all of these avenues. While exposing clients to the breadth of styles available is an important part of educating, our job as advisers isn't to dictate a specific taste or style, but to find the highest level of quality within the goals developed by our clients. 

Looking is Better than Talking

Communicating about art can be a challenge. Even within the academic art world, words can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. "Contemporary," "Abstract," or "Traditional" are descriptions we often encounter when speaking with clients about their preferences, and they usually mean something very specific yet different to each person. The best way to avoid confusion and effectively understand what your client is communicating? Use visual examples. Talk about specific parts of actual pieces of art, use descriptive words in conjunction with examples to create a vocabulary you both feel comfortable with. You can read more about our "tastemaker" approach to developing projects here.

Get Creative with Sources

Being an independent art advisory allows us to get creative in our search for the perfect piece of art to add to our client's collection. We are able to pursue whatever source will most successfully address the art collection needs of our clients. While I love working with galleries, auctions and art fairs, and print houses, I also love finding hidden gems from other sources off the beaten path.  

Know When to Become an Expert...and When to Find the Experts

Part of providing the highest level of advice to a client is deeply understanding their collection interests. The only way to do this is to continually educate yourself. The art world is an incredibly diverse and deep pool, and one of the joys of being a consultant is the ability to delve into that diversity to connect our clients with art, artifacts, and specific services that meet their needs. For a client specializing in aerospace technology, we dove into the history of aviation and learned to identify specific aircraft. For a client who loved the style of a particular architect, we researched many motifs in various buildings by that architect to understand and identify significant artifacts and source them. Learn as much as you can.

However, we can't be experts in every aspect of art collecting services. It is imperative to find people who have spent their life's work mastering their craft and connect them to your client's needs. Building a wide network of vendors and colleagues extends the reach of your advisory.  If we have a client that needs conservation of a historic painting, professional rigging of a large sculpture, or custom archival framing of a delicate work on paper, we rely on our community of experts to guide us through the process.

Get Out There!

The art world is constantly in motion, and by staying abreast of the trends, sales, styles, and artists, you can provide your clients with the widest range of options and the most knowledgeable recommendations. The best way to accomplish this is to go out and see the artwork in person (the best way to really experience a work of art), engage the community, meet artists and visit their studios to learn about their process, and continually explore what is being presented in galleries and sales. There is always something new to experience. 

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Fine Art Shipping & Transportation

CUSTOM CRATE FOR SHIPPING

DeGroot Fine Art consults on corporate and private art collections across the country, and we often transport artwork from galleries to framers to offices. Depending on the project we use long-distance art shuttles, local transportation, and exclusive-use trucks driven by dedicated staff. Each artwork shipment method is customized to fit our client’s timeline and artwork is packed with the utmost care and security.

Packing

Every artwork has specific considerations to best protect it during transportation. For delicate artwork like glass sculptures or works with small components, we fabricate custom crates that are designed to support and protect the most vulnerable artwork. For all packing methods, we use archival materials that protect the chemical balance of paintings, works on paper, and sculptural surfaces and are compliant with museum standards. Our white-glove treatment is designed to protect artwork at every step of the shipment, ensuring a safe and efficient delivery.

Local Transportation

If your office is moving within the same area, inclusive art handling and local transportation makes relocating your art collection a breeze. Our handlers will pack artwork securely onsite, transport your art collection to its new location, and reinstall the artwork in a timely manner. We use internal inventory systems to account for every work of art and design installation plans in advance so the move is efficient and hassle-free.

We regularly use art handlers for local shipping to and from frame shops, conservation studios, and display fabricators. Our professional fine art handlers coordinate the logistics on both ends of the delivery to ensure a convenient schedule for all parties involved. They work with galleries and private collectors as well to transport artwork wherever it’s needed.

Long Distance Fine Art Shuttles

Long distance shuttles are a great option for transporting artwork between cities, especially if the timeline is flexible. We work with a network of shuttles across the country and can have artwork picked up by professional art handlers from any corporate location. For delicate artwork and sculptures, we use air-ride trucks to ensure a smooth ride, with custom packing that will protect the artwork during shipment. Depending on archival considerations, trucks with temperature and humidity control are available as well.

Exclusive Use Transportation

When a large shipment of artwork is required, we hire professionally trained art handlers to drive exclusive-use trucks across the country. The handlers carefully wrap the individual artworks, pack them securely into the truck, and can deliver them to any destination in the continental United States. Trucks can be used for projects on a local, regional, or national nexus with flexible schedules to suit the specific conditions of a project. These shipments are dictated by the client’s schedule, and are an excellent option for time-sensitive projects.

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Art Collecting Culture

A few weeks ago I traveled to Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands, to explore my heritage and a whole lot of art museums. When starting this company in 2016, I was put in a position to name our consulting firm rather quickly. After trying many options on for size, we landed on my surname which translates in Dutch to "The Great." Growing up I hoped it meant I was a decedent of royalty, but I've since learned it simply refers the stature of my ancestors. Either way, the name conveyed a sense of grandeur and was a perfect tribute to my grandmother who was herself an artist. 

After arriving at the airport I certainly found myself surrounded by those who are vertically advantaged, with a large part of the population over six feet tall. Equally great were the ways in which the Dutch lived; their iconic row houses are towering, skinny, and compact. At night I would peer into the windows as I walked along the canals and was struck by the consistent presence of original artwork on the walls. They even hung beautiful large-scale paintings in their houseboats!

Surely inspired by the multitudes of world-class art museums in their country, the line between historical and home blends seamlessly there. Many of the pieces hanging were contemporary, and it made me wonder why our culture doesn't make the leap as often. I am making a concerted effort to not only improve my own home by investing in work made by living artists but to also help others make their spaces "Great" in the finest sense of the word. DeGroot Fine Art strives to place superior, local artwork in offices, hotels, restaurants, and private collections alike.

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