Chicago Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of “The Picasso” Sculpture

Contact: Bennie Currie, 312.744.9277

The Picasso sculpture was the center of attention today as well-wishers gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a Chicago icon.

The sculpture, generally known as the “The Picasso,” was unveiled on August 15, 1967 and sits on the east side of the Richard J. Daley Center. In celebration of that event, a giant top hat was placed atop the Picasso that reads “Happy 40th Birthday.” The anniversary festivities also included a giant Eli’s cheesecake that was served to well-wishers and passersby.

The massive untitled work designed by Pablo Picasso was a catalyst for the City of Chicago’s public art program and over the years, the sculpture has piqued the curiosity of countless observers, some of whom believe that the 50-foot, 324,000-pound sculpture depicts a horse or bird.

“What ever one sees when looking upon the Picasso, it’s certainly clear that it is a magnificent work of art,” said Montel Gayles, Executive Director of the Public Building Commission of Chicago, which owns and manages operation of the Daley Center. “It is a world-class sculpture that is probably Chicago’s most popular piece of public art.”

The PBC offered to pay Mr. Picasso $100,000 for his design, but he refused to accept it, presenting his masterpiece as a gift to the City of Chicago instead.

“The Picasso has always stood as a symbol of the strength of public art’s relationship to the outstanding architecture in this city,” said Gregory Knight, Deputy Commissioner of Visual Arts for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. “Forty years after it was installed, it has retained that place of distinction and become a true symbol of civic pride to both residents and visitors.”

In further recognition of the 40th anniversary of the sculpture, the cover of the forthcoming Public Building Commission of Chicago Annual Report will feature a painting of the Picasso by Dylan Rabe. A graduate of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School who now attends the School of the Art Institute Chicago, Rabe’s painting was selected from some 16 works submitted by students from the Chicago Public Schools’ Advanced Arts Education Program at Gallery 37.

The students’ illustrations currently are on display in the Daley Center lobby.

“Dylan’s work — and all the submissions from our students – represents the growing talent pool available in Chicago and within the Chicago Public Schools,” said Arne Duncan, Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools. “We’re proud that our students’ works could be showcased as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of this amazing sculpture.”

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), an architecture firm in Chicago and designers of the John Hancock Center and the Sears Tower, also played an integral role in the development of Chicago’s Picasso. Richard Tomlinson, Partner with SOM, spoke at the birthday celebration.

“SOM is proud to be a part of this legacy for the city,” Tomlinson said. “One of the important parts of public art is that it allows us to forge connections with those around us through a common dialogue. “

The PBC manages construction and renovation projects for the Chicago Public Schools as well as the City of Chicago and its other sister agencies. Mayor Richard M. Daley serves as the PBC’s Chairman.