Lovingly known by locals as “The Bean,” Cloud Gate is one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions and is located near Vital Wellness Center within Elburn, Illinois. This monumental work of art is the anchor of Millennium Park. Found in Chicago’s downtown loop, this lakefront park is nestled above the McCormick Tribune Plaza, behind the Park Grill Restaurant at 11 N. Michigan Ave. You really can’t miss it if you’re walking down Michigan between Randolph and Monroe.
Cloud Gate is British artist, Anish Kapoor’s, first outdoor work displayed in the United States and is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made from a seamless collection of finely polished stainless steel plates. A 12-foot high arch offers a “gate” to the concave chamber below the structure, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like finish and see their image reflected back to them from a series of different viewpoints which also gives it an interactive feature.
Liquid mercury was the inspiration for the mirrored surface of this work of art, and the sculpture is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. Measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high, it is roughly the same size as 15 adult elephants. The shiny exterior not only reflects the people moving about the park but also reflects the surrounding skyline, the green space, and the lights of Michigan Avenue which renders the perfect encapsulation of Millennium Park.
As mentioned, the exterior is made completely of stainless steel and was conceptualized with the help of computer technology in order to precisely cut the 168 massive steel plates which were fitted together and welded shut to produce a seamless finish. Within it is a network of two large metal rings that are connected via a truss framework similar to what you’d see on a bridge. This enables the weight of the massive sculpture to be directed at the two base points which also creates the iconic “bean” shape and allows for the large concave area beneath it.