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Visiting Cloud Gate, Chicago’s Iconic Bean

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

Prior to our first visit to the Windy City, we placed the Cloud Gate Sculpture, otherwise known as the Bean, firmly on our must-see list of things to experience. I’m not sure why it was so important for us to see it, but it was. So, no sooner had we landed at Midway Airport and taken the Orange Line into the city than we headed off to Millennium Park to see what all the fuss was about.

Beautiful Millennium Park

Beautiful Millennium Park

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

I must say that the setting for this one-of-a-kind structure is very impressive. Set in the beautiful Millennium Park with the soaring Chicago skyline behind, it just begs visitors to congregate around this fairly new, yet very popular landmark. Cloud Gate itself is actually much larger than I anticipated, and you can walk underneath it, which I guess I had not noticed from just seeing pictures of it. Anyway, as we eagerly approached the sculpture our anticipation of what one actually does when they get there began to set in.

You can look at yourself in the reflection

You can look at yourself in the reflection

The Chicago Bean has created an interesting phenomenon in the Windy City. It draws visitors from all over the world and has become one of the most identifiable structures in a city full of interesting and historical architecture. Yet, in reality, it has become more of a destination for a photo opportunity for selfie enthusiasts than a work of art to be studied and appreciated.

Whatever the true intent of the sculpture was, and I do consider it to be a work of art, it has certainly been a huge success. The reflection of the Chicago skyline seemingly floating in the sky makes for quite a sight. If you get creative you can take some interesting photos using the reflection of the city.

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.

— Frank Lloyd Wright

visiting-cloud-gate-chicagos-iconic-bean

What Exactly Is Cloud Gate?

The Chicago Bean is a stainless steel sculpture that stands 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, 66 feet long, and is located in the AT&T Plaza of Millennium Park. The design was created by artist Anish Kapoor following a design competition and was to be unveiled during the grand opening of Millennium Park in 2004. The sculpture was unveiled even though it had not been completed and was then concealed again until it’s completion in May of 2006.

The sculpture is shaped like a kidney bean, hence the name Bean, and was inspired by of all things, liquid mercury. Despite having 168 steel panels welded together, the Bean has no visible seams and is highly reflective due to an intense polishing process, which makes it a magnet for every selfie enthusiast that visits Chicago.

visiting-cloud-gate-chicagos-iconic-bean

What to Do at Cloud Gate

Once you arrive at the Chicago Bean, the next logical thing to do seems to be taking photos of it. It really reminded me of our time in Pisa at the Leaning Tower where everyone seems to be posing in front of a singular object of intense fascination. People certainly come up with all sorts of creative and interesting photo opportunities, and I suppose this is what Cloud Gate is all about. It offers visitors a beautiful venue in which to let their creative and playful side shine. It also provides incredible reflections of Chicago’s skyline in its highly polished surface.

Having fun at the Bean

Having fun at the Bean

Crown Fountain

When you have exhausted all of your creative energy posing and taking photos of the Bean, be sure to check out the Crown Fountain. Located just a stone’s throw from the Bean, the Crown Fountain has two 50-foot towers that continually project the faces of 1,000 Chicago residents. I wonder how many of these folks have gone down to the fountain and actually seen their image?

The faces appear to spout water when they open their mouth creating a very unique and creative fountain. The two glass towers are set at opposite ends of a black granite reflecting pool that provides welcome relief to kids looking to cool off and escape the summer heat. It’s just one more reason why Chicago’s Millennium Park draws locals and visitors alike.

Crown Fountain

Crown Fountain

Interesting Facts on the Cloud Gate Sculpture

  • Because of the sweat, dirt, fingerprints, etc. that accumulate on the Bean, it is cleaned daily. Depending on the season it is often power washed at night and twice a year it’s washed in 40 gallons of liquid detergent.
  • Cloud Gate was designed using computer modeling and was constructed in California by Performance Structures before being shipped in pieces to Chicago.
  • Surprisingly, the interior of the sculpture is made largely of wood.
  • The sculpture wound up costing about $23 million and was paid for entirely with individual and corporate donations.
  • During the design competition phase, Cloud Gate beat out a giant 90-foot slide that was designed by Jeff Koons.
  • The Chicago Bean weighs in at a staggering 110 tons.
  • The sculpture was designed to last at least 1,000 years, and this was actually stated in his Kapoor’s contract.
  • Cloud Gate has become so popular that it has a drink named after it. You can order a Cloud Gate cocktail at the Tavern at the Park Restaurant.
  • There is a copy of Cloud Gate in the Chinese city of Karamay. Supposedly it represents an oil bubble to commemorate the site of the first oil well in the city, but both Anish Kapoor and Chicago city officials see it for what it actually is, a blatant copy.
  • Creator Anish Kapoor apparently is not thrilled with his work of art being called the Bean.
The Bean

The Bean

Looking up from under the Bean

Looking up from under the Bean

I must admit that we had our share of fun while visiting the Bean. It truly amazes me the things that draw our interest and attention, and I mean that in a very positive way. Take a seemingly impractical hunk of stainless steel, shape it into a kidney bean, polish it up so it’s very shiny and reflective, and the people will come. Pure genius!

Anyway, if you are visiting the Windy City for the first time, make the effort to wander through Millennium Park to the Cloud Gate Sculpture, I think you’ll find it to be a refreshing and fun experience.

© 2019 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 14, 2020:

Thank you Peggy. I am familiar with that commercial and it always reminds me of our visit. We had never been to Chicago before and we really enjoyed the city.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2020:

I see this sculpture used as a backdrop in an advertisement for a product on television. Thanks to you, I know that the site is Chicago. So I think of your article every time I see that ad. (Smile)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 24, 2020:

While I wasn't expecting much of our visit to the Bean I must say we really enjoyed it. The reflections are wonderful and people seem to have a lot of fun taking selfies and creative pictures. Certainly for anyone visiting Chicago it's worth visiting. Have a great day, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 24, 2020:

I can see why this Bean sculpture is so popular with people and photographers. The reflections viewed in it are fantastic, both of people and buildings. The Crown fountain would also be fun to see. Thanks for sharing your photos and information.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 30, 2019:

Thank you Nithya. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Have a great day.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 29, 2019:

It is a fantastic structure and calls for many selfies. Great photos! I enjoyed reading about the Cloud Gate, thank you for sharing.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 14, 2019:

Thank you, Pam. It’s a fun place to visit and definitely a great place for selfie enthusiasts who can get creative.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 14, 2019:

Thank you, Lorelei. It is an interesting and unique piece of work. We enjoyed Chicago, it was our first visit.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on July 14, 2019:

Our world truly is an amazing place and our artists unique each in their own way. I had to look twice at this sculpture.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 14, 2019:

I really like your photos, especially the group selfie as everyone looks so happy. The Bean looks like a very interesting place to visit, and I appreciate all of your information.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 14, 2019:

Thank you, Linda. It’s definitely an interesting site to visit.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 13, 2019:

The opening photo definitely attracts readers to the article! The Bean looks like an interesting item to explore. The photos and the relections are lovely.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 13, 2019:

Hi Heidi. We do want to return to see some of the museums and other sites. We were there for a graduation, so we had limited time. I think we made the most of it, but definitely, there is much more to see. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 13, 2019:

Hi Liz. The Bean is just that, an interesting photo opportunity. People definitely seemed to be enjoying themselves taking selfies. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 13, 2019:

Hi Bill. I’m not a fan of crowds either, which is why a long weekend in the big city is usually enough for me. I did find the Bean to be an interesting site, still amazes me what draws our interest. Have a great weekend.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on July 13, 2019:

Surprisingly for being from Chicago, though I've seen it from afar while winding my way through downtown, I have never actually been near the Bean. It's interesting, but I'd rather go to the Art Institute. Actually, I like the Picasso "Untitled" who-knows-what-it-is sculpture in Daley Plaza better. Guess we're prone to displaying unusual controversial art here. :)

Thanks for continuing to share your Chicago tour with us!

Liz Westwood from UK on July 13, 2019:

My daughter has visited Chicago so I have seen photos of the bean before. Your article gives a detailed explanation, aided by great photos. The nearest I have come to this is a wave-like reflective canopy by the old port in Marseille. They make for interesting photos.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 13, 2019:

Well, it certainly is unique. I've never been to Chicago. It's got that whole "crowded" thing going for it, and I don't do crowded. :) But thanks for a glimpse at something I probably will never see in person.

Have a brilliant weekend, Bill!