fine art storage

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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Fine Art Storage

Art Storage

When to Store Artwork

Corporate entities are constantly changing – whether a company is growing or downsizing, their art collection often needs to be taken off-site while these changes are put in place. With many newly renovated offices, there is a culture shift towards openness and collaboration; this manifests in design features like glass walls, interactive write-on walls, and open floor plans with fewer traditional artwork locations. While these adjustments are implemented, storing artwork gives our clients flexibility to install on their schedule.

During construction and relocations, we assist our clients with short and long-term storage options for collections. We manage the process from concept to completion and coordinate artwork removal with building management and the construction team. From there we transport the artwork to a secure storage facility, designed specifically to protect artwork.

Preserving Artwork

We store artwork in state-of-the-art facilities across the country. Protective measures are taken to preserve the artwork, including climate control options to provide the ideal temperature, humidity, and circulation needed for optium archival conditions.

Artwork remains safely packed in it’s storage area. Custom crates, armatures, and shelves can be built to accommodate the specific needs of a sculpture, painting, or artifact. Archival materials are used to protect against acidity and infestations.

Best Practices for Organization

Storage facilities are expansive, and great care is taken to ensure each artwork is accounted for. We use digital databases to maintain an inventory system that tracks details for each item in storage. This can include barcodes indicating the precise location in the storage area, contact information for the project manager, images, and condition reports.

Condition reports

These reports are a key part of art consulting and managing an art collection. When artwork first arrives at the storage location, a condition report is written as part of the initial inventory process. The reports make note of scratches, color inconsistencies, paint cracking, warped canvases, and other noticeable imperfections in an artwork or frame. Images are taken of the noted nuances when the condition report is prepared and are included in the inventory.

When artwork is ready to leave storage, a second condition report is generated. This report should review the original notes, and indicate the current status of the artwork. These updated reports are especially important if an artwork is being removed for conservation or reframing. Additional photos may be taken and added to the artwork’s inventory record.

Diligently employing these best practices when storing artwork leads to reliable records and an efficient system that keeps a collection safe. Using a professional fine art storage facility protects our clients’ investment in their art collection and makes it easy to manage their assets during office construction, renovation, or relocation.  

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