26th May 2024
Cloud Gate

The Bean of Steel

Ever wondered to what extent liquid mercury could inspire someone? A look at Cloud Gate might give you an idea.

Cloud Gate is a public structure that stands at the Millennium Park in Chicago, USA. The sculpture is a seamless structure of stainless steel reflecting the city’s skyline. Made of 168 stainless steel plates, its highly-polished surface is as clear and reflective as a mirror. Its shape has earned it the nickname ‘The Bean’ – a name that its creator, Indian-born British architect Anish Kapoor, calls ‘stupid’. Also, the 12-foot arch – the ‘gate’ – beneath invites public to a tangible, mirror-like experience with unique reflections. Kapoor says:

‘What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline… so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one’s reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around.’

The 110-tonne steel giant took two years (2004–2006) to realize. It was finally opened for the public on 15 May 2006. Moreover, the city’s then Mayor declared the day to be ‘Cloud Gate Day’, in a gesture of admiration and patronage. Such is the work, Kapoor states, that the Cloud Gate could survive for a thousand years.

For the design and theme, Kapoor drew inspiration from liquid mercury. This theme is also evident in his Sky Mirror (2001) in Nottingham, England. Also, his work Turning the World Upside Down (2010), installed in Israel Museum, has a similar theme.

The design of Cloud Gate is such that at times it becomes difficult to see where the sculpture ends and the sky begins.

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