World renowned artist Pablo Picasso designed the three-dimensional, cubist sculpture which stands 50 feet tall and weighs 162 tons. The sculpture is made of Corrosive Tensile (Cor-Ten) steel which is the same material as the exterior “skin” of the Richard J. Daley Center. Untreated Cor-Ten is self-weathering which over time develops a natural rust patina giving both the Daley Center and the Picasso their distinctive red and brown color.
On behalf of the City of Chicago, local architect and senior partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, William E. Hartman, personally approached Pablo Picasso to create a larger-than-average sculpture to complement the soon to be built Civic Center (now the Richard J. Daley Center). Picasso not only agreed to undertake the project but, he also insisted on doing it free of charge. He donated both his design and 42-inch model to the people of Chicago as a gift. Using Picasso’s guidelines, Hartmann managed a team of SOM structural engineers that engineered the design drawings for the sculpture. The actual sculpture was constructed by the United States Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana where it was assembled, disassembled and then shipped to the Daley Center Plaza to be reassembled in the prominent place it stands today. The sculpture was unveiled to the public on August 15, 1967.
The sculpture was originally greeted with much controversy because of its abstract form but it quickly became a Chicago landmark. The sculpture is unnamed and is often referred to as the “Chicago Picasso” or “The Picasso”. Picasso never explained what the sculpture was meant to represent and many have come up with theories of their own.
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