Is This Art? Chicago's Iconic Cloud Gate aka 'The Bean'
Cloud Gate, dubbed ‘the bean’ by locals (a nickname the artist absolutely hates), is a sculpture by Anish Kapoor in Chicago, Illinois, and it is quite the spectacle; ‘it’ being a giant stainless-steel bean in the middle of Millenium park. The sculpture measures 33 feet high and 66 feet wide. It’s actually been featured in several movies, including Transformers: Age of Extinction. It attracts something like 12 million people a year, and some of those people are wedding guests, because sometimes some other people decide get married at The Bean. (We didn't include any pictures of these iconic weddings because they are the private property of the bride, groom, and their photographer, but a quick google search for 'cloud gate wedding' will be just as illuminating.)
So, what’s the hype? Why is a giant shiny kidney bean in the middle of a park considered art? It’s hardly the first ‘giant sculpture’; in fact, America alone has a reputation for hosting a wide variety of giant sculptures; world’s largest ball of twine, largest rocking chair, largest wind chime; all of which are relegated to ‘tourist attraction’ status. And that doesn’t even get into the sculptures in other countries; France had the world's largest light-bulb display in 2015. So why is The Bean so different?
The main thing that sets the Bean apart is that it was made By Anish Kapoor. Anish Kapoor, as an established artist, has the authority to decide what is and isn’t art. And, as an established artist, his opinion is heard over most others, whereas all those other sculptures were made by unknown people. Not in terms of ‘we don’t know who made them’, but rather, ‘they’re not famous so who cares what they made’. It’s like celebrity culture. Think of it this way; an art critic and an art novice both do an analysis of the Mona Lisa. Whose analysis is likely to have more credibility? Also, who’s analysis is likely to be more talked about, in magazines, and newspapers, and online articles? Whose analysis will be more visible? That’s a rhetorical question; obviously it’s the critic.
There’s also a commercial aspect to it, though. Historically, art has been consistently elitist, for many reasons, and that hasn’t really changed today. The long and short of it is that The Bean isn't actually that different from other giant sculptures. But that doesn't necessarily mean it isn’t art; rather, it means all those other things should be considered art too.
Odds are that no matter how disdainful you may be of ‘art’ in general, your opinion is going to be influenced by the opinions of the people who are actively part of that field. The point here isn’t that one opinion has more value than the other; in fact, since art is largely performative, it should stand that everyone’s opinions matter equally, right? Everyone has an equal right to be part of the audience.
So, if you want a definitive answer; yes. The Bean is art. Why? Because people said it was. Everyone gets something different out of it, be it a deep spiritual awakening upon seeing your distorted reflection, or just a cool selfie. But it did something. Art is largely performative; its main goal is to evoke a reaction. It doesn’t matter what reaction.
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Written by Sambhavi Sinha, Content Writer at Skyshot Media