Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Picasso sculpture at a restaging event of the 1967 unveiling at Daley Plaza

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Picasso sculpture at a restaging event of the 1967 unveiling at Daley Plaza

The Chicago Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s large-scale civic sculpture in Daley Plaza--the first of its kind in America--turns 50 next week.

When the sculpture was unveiled in 1967--it was done so with much controversy.

Was it a work of art or a cruel joke? The work, for which the 85-year-old Picasso refused payment, calling it his gift to "the people of Chicago,"  had no title. It was up to the public to decide what it was.

A woman’s head?

An Afghan hound?

A seahorse?

A baboon?

The Tribune called it a “predatory grasshopper.”

Col. Jack Reilly, the mayor's director of special events at the time, called for its immediate removal.

Ald. John J. Hoellen wanted it "deported" and replaced with a statue of "Mr. Cub . . . Ernie Banks."

Mayor Richard J. Daley (closest to the sculpture) unveils the Picasso "with the belief that what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow." The sculpture celebrated art rather than civic achievement. (Tribune archive photo)

Mayor Richard J. Daley promised the city that "what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow."

On that count, the Mayor was right. Whether it is beloved or just accepted, the sculpture has become a familiar part of Chicago. Children slide down it, festivals, food trucks, the Daley Plaza Farmer's Market and Christkindlesmarkt--all take place under the watchful eye of the 50 feet tall sculpture that rests on a base of granite constructed of the same Cor-Ten steel as the building behind it.

Today's 50th anniversary celebration, conceived by artist and historian Paul Durica, kicks off at noon at Daley Plaza with a restaging of the 1967 unveiling.

Contemporary arts leaders, artists, city officials and performers will be in attendance.  The program will feature youth performances by the Chicago Children’s Choir and the After School Matters Orchestra. Additionally, YouMedia @ Chicago Public Library teens will interview attendees while in character as the legendary Studs Terkel. Other participants include Orbert Davis, Tatsu Aoki, Avery R. Young and Edra Soto.

More events celebrating the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Picasso

A free-admission film and lecture series will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Picasso at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.).

  • A Public Art Film Series on August 12 and 13 at 2 p.m. and August 14 and 15 at 6:30 p.m. will feature films providing a time capsule to when public art, murals and sculpture were just beginning to take form in Chicago.
  • An August 15 screening will include a film related to Picasso’s 1967 dedication. Also on August 15, at 12:15 p.m., cultural historian Paul Durica will moderate a conversation with Chicago artists, YouMedia teens and representatives from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive on “50 Years Later: Reflections on Chicago’s Picasso.”

A book discussion at the Chicago Public Library's Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St.

  • Art historian Patricia Balton Stratton, along with an esteemed group of panelists will discuss her new book The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure on August 15 at 6 p.m.

For additional details and a listing of all Year of Public Art events, click here.

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Filed under: Art., Chicago events

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