Chicago’s Public Art Landscape Gets New Work | WBEZ
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Chicago’s Public Art Landscape Gets New Work

Art historian Cynthia Noble said Chicago is due for another large-scale public art work. It’s been 14 years since the attraction at Millennium Park that’s become a regular photo for tourists and residents debuted — Cloud Gate, otherwise known as “The Bean.”

Noble is executive director of Art on the Mart, the new digital light and sound installation that is debuting Saturday at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. The works will be projected on the facade of the art deco building.

Noble said one of the factors that makes Art on the Mart unique is what she calls its “quasi permanent” placement. She said theMART (formerly, and most commonly, known as the Merchandise Mart) signed a 30-year lease with the city of Chicago. Noble and the mayor’s office said the project is privately funded by theMART’S owner, Vornado Realty Trust.

Noble pointed to the project’s scale as another distinguishing factor. Noble said the works will be projected on over 2.5 acres. To provide a better visual of that, Noble said “that’s larger than two football fields.”

Artist Jan Tichy's rendering of what you can expect to see during Art on theMart. (Courtesy of Jan Tichy via Carol Fox and Associates)

Four artists were selected for Art on the Mart’s debut, and two are Chicagoans: Jan Tichy and Jason Salavon. Noble explained Salavon’s work, Homage in Between (Chicago Art, 20th Century), uses data sets to create images like faces, some of which point directly to the project’s location, “such as Chicago artists like Georgia O’Keeffe or Ed Paschke.”

Diana Thater and Zheng Chongbin were also selected. Noble said their works do not take on Chicago themes directly, but “very much address the site specificity of the facade of the mart, its unique geometry, its unique texture, and the fact that the windows are subbed out.”

Art on the Mart premieres Saturday at 7:15 p.m. After that, it can then be seen Wednesdays through Sundays after sunset. Noble said the project takes a break next January and February, but Chicagoans can expect a be new work in March. For the unveiling, Wacker Drive will be closed off to cars but open for pedestrians. 

Carrie Shepherd is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @cshepherd.

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