Chicago's Cloud Gate - the 'Bean there, done that' debate

I love the Bean in Millennium Park. It's shiny and chubby and makes people smile. But I can understand if, as an artist, you go to all that work and thought and first of all, people don't call it by its real name, and then a very similar version bubbles up in China, you might not be on Cloud Gate Nine.

Cloud Gate's artist Anish Kapoor is reportedly considering legal action against the Chinese oil town of Karamay for its big shiny sculpture of the local liquid black stuff. With all this talk of copyright issues, I've compiled my own check-list to ascertain whether the Bubble, if a copy, at least has been done right.


The beanie button - it's definitely an 'innie'

1, Does the Bubble have a navel? Or to be exact, does it have an omphalos, the correct Greek term for Cloud Gate's beanie button which creates those marvellous Hall of Mirrors effects.

From what I can see, the Bubble only has an underbelly, covered in brightly coloured LEDs. For those who think the LEDs are cool, we also have them - Little Elongated Distortions of ourselves.

2. Is it built to last 1,000 years? The Bean is - it's written in its contract. They were obviously taking this Millennium Park thing seriously.

3. Does it have its own song? You can hear Cloud Gate's 'Fanfare', written by Orbert Davis, below. It's got a little 'Mission Impossible' thing going, to my ear. Probably felt like that during the construction process. Can't have been easy bending, shaping and welding together 168 stainless steel plates and then sanding the seams down to give the Bean's smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom look.

4. Is it built where it was originally meant to be? The Bean isn't - it was supposed to be the centerpiece of the nearby Lurie Garden. But the planners decided the gardens would end up being trampled, so it proudly sits on what is now called AT&T Plaza. AT&T must love the idea of a 1,000 year contract. Hope it doesn't catch on.

5. Is it a heavy weight? And I'm not talking artistically. The Bean is not exactly as light as a cloud at 110 short tons. Which didn't mean much to me until I worked out that's the equivalent of 10 very large killer whales.

6. Is it graffiti-free? Because not even the artist's signature can be found on the Bean. A few have tried to etch their names into eternity (or at least 1,000 years). But any attempts to beat the sands of time have been beaten by the sanders.

7. Will it have a regular bathing schedule? Apart from daily wipe downs to keep that smooth-as-a-baby's bottom a clean one, the Bean also gets a semi-annual bath in 40 gallons of Tide detergent. So lots of bubbles around the Bean - let's hope they're not oily ones or the Chinese will be talking about copyright issues.

8. Does it have a secret office inside? The Bean does apparently - the former office of its general foreman during the construction process. You can see it here.

9. And finally, is the Bubble cool enough for a potential Presidential candidate to stare into?

If you actually made it all the way to the bottom, you might also enjoy this -

What does your Chicago sound like?

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