More than 44 years ago, Chicago unveiled one of the most iconic sculptures the world has ever seen. Now, a model of that statue, created by Pablo Picasso in the early 1960s, is for sale.
I think somebody in Chicago should buy it. Maybe it will help erase some bad karma between the artist and the city that’s been lingering since it was created.
Few pieces of art are as identified with Chicago. But travel back in time to the day when it was first unveiled in Chicago, and you would have thought the great man had consciously chosen to insult this fair town.
Conceived by a group of businessmen as a way to help Chicago shake it’s reputation as a cultural backwater, the sculpture idea was supported by Mayor Richard J. Daley as part of a grand 31-story civic center in the heart of downtown. Daley dispatched a team of representatives to ask Picasso to consider creating something wonderful for a city he had never seen. They went armed with a check for $100,000, which Picasso, who died in 1973, turned down.
Yet, on August 15, 1967, when Mayor Daley pulled the cord attached to 1,200 square feet of blue-green fabric and unwrapped the artists gift to the people of Chicago, the response from the assembled politicians and other dignitaries was, well, less than enthusiastic.
Here’s legendary columnist Mike Royko from the scene:
The silence grew. Then people turned and looked at each other. Some shrugged. Some smiled. Some just stood there, frowning or blank-faced. Most just turned and walked away. The weakest pinch-hitter on the Cubs receives more cheers. They had wanted to be moved by it. But anyone who didn't have a closed mind—which means thinking that anything with the name Picasso connected must be wonderful—could see that it was nothing but a big, homely metal thing.
Of course, all of that’s changed by now. Just a few years later, Royko’s contemporary and pal, Studs Terkel, was able to point to the Picasso as one of the things that made Chicago great.
Christie’s auction house is expected to put the 41-inch model Picasso used to create the statue up for sale next month. Estimates say it could go for as much as $35 million.
While that’s hardly chump change, clearly somebody in this city needs to buy it and put it on display in Chicago.
C’mon, people—whaddya say? Let’s show Picasso there’s no hard feelings, huh?