Cloud Gate (Chicago, Illinois)

Inspired by liquid mercury, Cloud Gate often called “The Bean” is a public sculpture designed by British artist Anish Kapoor.   The crowning jewel of Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, Cloud Gate looks as if it dropped from above fully formed to reflect the city’s skyline.  Constructed from 2004-2006, The Bean is made of 168 welded stainless steel plates but the highly polished surface shown no visible seems.   Since its construction The Bean has become one of the United States’ most visited and beloved roadside attractions.  While it appears to weightlessly sit reflecting passersby, the Cloud Gate actually weighs in at 110 tons and measures 33 x 66 x 42 feet (10 x 20 x 13 m).  Since its formal dedication ceremony on May 15, 2006 the Cloud Gate has become a popular backdrop for commercials, music videos, and films.

Cloud Gate reflecting the city

The design for the Cloud Gate sculpture was chosen by a group of art collectors, architects, museum curators, and Millennium Park officials from the work of 30 different artists that were asked to submit designs.  The mirror-like surface, reflecting the surrounding city skyline has an elliptical shape that distorts the reflection in the same way a fun-house mirror does.  The underside of the sculpture features a 27 foot (8.2 m) omphalos that reflects the viewer from multiple angles as they walk through the arch and out the other side.  While it was originally designed to sit on the southeast corner of the park in the Lurie Gardens it was decided that it was too large for the small piece of land.  Despite Kapoor’s reservations and objections, the sculpture was built at the AT&T Plaza and has become one of Chicago’s top tourist destinations.  Once you travel to Chicago and see all the art and architecture, you will find that there are always reasons to visit again.

Cloud Gate Facts

  • Cloud Gate was not built in Chicago. The fabrication was done by Performance Structures Inc. of Oakland, California.
  • Anish Kapoor, the artist that designed the Cloud Gate hates the nickname “the Bean”.
  • It took three years to construct the sculpture.
  • The design that took second place to the Cloud Gate was a 90 foot tall slide made of steel and glass.
  • The lower 6 feet of the sculpture are cleaned by hand twice a day.  The rest is cleaned twice a year.
  • Cloud Gate was inspired by liquid mercury.

Travel Tips

  • Cloud Gate is a beautiful sculpture, but is only a small part of a beautiful city.  There are plenty of sculptures, museums, and roadside attractions nearby so don’t spend all day there.
  • There will almost always be people standing nearby so don’t expect a perfect photo.  That’s what postcards are for.
  • Check out the other sites at Chicago’s Millennium Park.  There are other really great and world renowned sculptures just minutes away.
  • Parking is extremely difficult to find nearby so take the tram and do a little walking.
  • Take a walk to the Art Institute of Chicago and see some of the world’s art treasures.  It’s 0.2 miles (0.32km) away and well worth the price of admission.