The Bean — a glassy, stainless steel sculpture in the Loop’s Millennium Park referred to by authorities and nerds by its official name, Cloud Gate — has long enticed visitors and locals alike.
But a new Chicago-themed holiday card has made some look back at it and wonder: Is the rounded sculpture a little too curvy?
The Bean, an iconic centerpiece for the city since it was first unveiled in 2004, appears on the card among Chicago skyscrapers and other landmarks. The sculpture seems to have been flipped over in the drawing, making it look almost like the derriere of the Windy City.
The card looked cute at first when Tribune reporter Kori Rumore spotted it at a Walgreens Thursday, she said. But then she spotted the artist’s take on the sculpture.
“I can tell what the artist was trying to go for. But it just looks like someone’s butt,” Rumore said.
The drawing doesn’t seem to accurately capture the public art installment, she added. Cloud Gate is rounded, yes, but it’s smooth up top.
“If The Bean did have a butt, it would be on its underside. And that’s the part you can walk through and take cool pictures from,” she said.
The drawing seemed like a generic depiction of a big city with some Chicago likenesses tossed in, former Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin said.
Kamin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism with the Tribune in 1999, has a photo of The Bean on the cover of his new book, “Who Is the City For?: Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago.” The sculpture is the new symbol of the city, he said.
“It symbolizes this glistening, modern, dynamic, global city. A place of wonder, and a place where you can even touch the sky,” Kamin said. “It’s kind of an ideal version of what Chicago is.”
And it certainly isn’t a butt.
“Boy, uh, wow,” the critic said as he looked at the Hallmark card during a phone interview. “It’s not accurate. It doesn’t look anything like The Bean. If you wanted to be charitable, you’d say it looks like the top of a heart … without the bottom.”
But while less gracious critics would instead say the card in fact showed too much bottom, Hallmark’s headquarters did not shine light on the alleged hindquarters. Representatives for the company did not respond to inquiries about the card Friday.
The company’s online listing of the card describes the drawing as a “colorful illustration of the Chicago skyline along Lake Michigan, as viewed through a snow globe design.”
Cards for Kansas City, Texas and California with matching designs appeared on Hallmark’s website. The New York City version features the Empire State Building, a crown jewel 275-feet shorter than Chicago’s Willis Tower. The Statue of Liberty is wearing all of her clothes in the drawing.
One possible explanation of the imprecise illustration is copyright law. Anish Kapoor, the Indian-born, British artist who created Cloud Gate, sued the National Rifle Association for using an image of the sculpture in a 2017 video without a copyright. Both Kapoor and the NRA said the sculpture’s image would be removed from the video, and Kapoor declared the removal “a victory.”
Despite the card’s rump-like rendition, tourists flocked to The Bean on Friday. Hundreds of people buzzed around the sculpture late in the afternoon. Butt or not, some visitors said, the powerful figure is a good look for Chicago.
Talia Sinagra of Montreal gazed under the sinuous steel from a ledge overlooking the park’s McCormick Tribune Plaza. As a tourist, she felt obligated to check it out, she said.
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“It kind of looks like a squishy cartoon butt that’s about to sit down,” the 29-year-old added.
Kwame Han of London thought The Bean resembled, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bean. But the essential Chicago landmark, with its reflective surface, is fun nonetheless.
“Everyone likes looking at themselves, right?” he said.
Kathleen Raftery of Philadelphia agreed that The Bean’s function as a giant mirror brings in crowds. She was surprised by how cute the sculpture was in person, she said.
She was unsure what she thought, though, when asked whether The Bean resembled a butt. As she thought it over, someone asked her if she could take their picture.