Untitled in Chicago

Photo of Untitled in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Untitled in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Untitled in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Untitled in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Untitled in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Untitled in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

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Untitled
Also known as:Chicago Picasso
Also known as:Tête de Femme

Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60602
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Chicago's untitled Picasso sculpture was a gift to the city. And like the socks you got from Aunt Marge at Christmas, this one doesn't quite fit. For decades, people have cocked their heads like inquisitive little puppies trying to figure out what it is supposed to represent. To some it is a woman. To others, a cow. A bird. A lion. A symbol of evil. A symbol of hope. When the sculpture was initially unveiled, many thought it was meant to represent one of the artist's Afghan dogs. It has been featured in movies, and eventually, grudgingly, accepted as a symbol of the city.

What the Picasso is not is small. At 50 feet tall and 162 tons, it's quite a large structure, and on warm summer days unruly tourist kids run up and slide down its base, much to the chagrin of locals and art lovers.

Over the decades, millions of tourists, hundreds of artists, and dozens of movies have captured the image of this sculpture, but none unlocked its secret. Perhaps the most plausible explanation comes from a November, 2004 article in the Chicago Sun-Times. The newspaper claims it is likely a sculpture of Lydia Corbett. Born in 1934 in England, by the time she was 19, she was living in France and posing regularly for Picasso. According to the artist's grandson in his book "Picasso: The Real Family Story," the girl posed dozens of times and Picasso was fascinated by her long neck and ponytail. Later, art historians would mistake her for Brigitte Bardot in many of his works.

Quick Facts
Timeline
  • 15 August, 1967: The statue was unveiled in what was then known as Civic Center Plaza. It was the first of many public works of art to adorn the Loop district.
Notes
  • The statue is made of Cor-Ten (corrosive tensile) steel, as is the Richard J. Daley Center behind it.
  • The irony is that Pablo Picasso gave this massive work of art to the city of Chicago, even though he'd never been to the city, and never went during his lifetime.
  • Picasso was not paid for this statue. He refused to talk about any payment.
  • Picasso didn't actually create this statue. He created 42-inch-tall version of his vision, which was then executed by U.S. Steel Corporation.
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Your Thoughts

There are 12 comments.

  It's a mandrill, not a baboon or a gibbon. Right family, wrong primate.

Zelda - Sunday, August 17th, 2014 @ 6:58pm  

  From the beginning it looked like a pile of junk but Daley had the Unions spread the word that it was art so you should love it.

gvhparkridge - Thursday, June 19th, 2014 @ 8:15pm  

  Gentlemen, As you look at the Picaso you first notice the head. It resembles a livestock Steer. The two circles on top are the eyes..The two circles at the bottom are its nostrils. Chicago Largest stockyard in the world, and meat packing. The two large wings represent O'Hare airport, at that time largest airport in the world. From there you see the two sets of rails , one on each side, this represents the largest railway center in he world. Most trains traveled to Chicago for connections to various parts of th United States. The next time you look at the Picaso, just look at it as I outlined. Trust you enjoyed my interpretation. I have never seen or heard of anybody making this interpretation. My Best Personal Regards, William J. DarrasEntered on Nov. 22,2013.

Wilm J. - Friday, November 22nd, 2013 @ 10:27pm  

  My daughter and I took a recent interest in art, so in driving thru Chicago, we just had to see it for ourselves. We don't see a women at all. Looking at it from the front, it looks like the silhouettes of 2 mouths and chins, perhaps speaking out in opposite directions. The long pieces towards the back of the sculpture are 2 wings. Since the 'two wings' connect to the 'two mouths' by long rods it meant to us that it carried out the voices of the people. The 2 sets of dots: the 2 inside the eye shape are the eyes of onlookers piercing in and the other set of eyes are eyes looking out of the city. BTW my two girls made themselves part of those unruly tourist children sliding down The Picasso...maybe at his age, Picasso wanted something children too could appreciate from the sculpture.

Lucy Flores - Monday, June 17th, 2013 @ 8:57am  

  I only ever saw the winged-baboon resemblance until earlier this week when I saw a drawing of the sculpture. Eureka! The drawing revealed to me a whole new image: Two identical faces in profile - facing each other - foreheads, lips and noses overlapping. The arches in the lower, back are shoulders. View it straight on and in your mind's eye convert it to a 2D image. Next time I'm there I will view it from the back and look for John F.'s image.

Shari - Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 @ 3:15pm  

  Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispín Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso was Picasso's real name.

Annalia - Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 @ 4:14pm  

  You view it not from the angles pictures but from the back, off to one side. It very clearly becomes a woman looking over her shoulder. It is as plain as the sky is blue.

John Fiebke - Thursday, December 13th, 2012 @ 10:54pm  

  It is semi-refined Being. it speaks of potential and flight, but also unrefined and unshapely heaviness and stasis. It is the woman and the City only partially or barely known, awaiting further refinement.

rb - Friday, May 18th, 2012 @ 12:47pm  

  A gibbon or a baboon. Looks more like a baboon to me. Seriously, compare a pic of a baboon to that thing, long snout, narrow eyes, thick mane of fur on the neck and shoulders. Although, that could be too literal of an interpretation. After all, this is Picasso.

Sven - Friday, August 17th, 2007 @ 10:43pm  

  I was there in 1967 at the unveiling.10 years old and taken in both by thestatue and the reaction. It has been one of the most profound moments of my life; setting a course of interest in art and culture that still gives meaning to my life today. For me, as a young mangrowing up in a turbulent time, it wasequal in importance to a man stepping onthe surface of the moon 2 years later.Picasso is a giant in evolution of social thought and popular culture.His gift to the City of Chicago (The USA) is/was a blessing and a boon thatonly a man of his genius and generositycould bestow upon a people and a nation destined to identify with mass produceddisposable consumer consciousness. It is a monument to the creative process. Human achievement unadorned. And that IS one small step for that artist one giant leap for mankind. Happy Birthday 8/15/07.

Martin R. - Sunday, July 15th, 2007 @ 2:14am  

  It is CLEARLY a gibbon.

Malleigh - Saturday, May 12th, 2007 @ 1:31pm  

  This page gives some interesting ideas about what this piece of art could be; all equally ponderable. My belief is that this is a sculpture of Mayor Richard J. Daley in profile (when viewed from the Northeast). ABJ-Chicago

Adam J. - Monday, April 24th, 2006 @ 7:53am  

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