Anish Kapoor – especially the large, tactile, abstract ones – invariably do.
Which is why I landed up visiting the Millenium Park thrice during my two-week stay in Chicago. Just so that I could stare, touch and fool around with The Bean (or Cloud Gate, as is its official name that nobody uses) – the giant, bean-shaped, silvery sculpture by Anish Kapoor that sits in the park reflecting the amazing towered skyline of downtown Chicago.
After attending a retrospective of his works at the Royal Academy of Arts, I had written in a blogpost: “The material and colours somehow invited you to touch them, stare into their curving holes, pose in front of its shiny surfaces, hop over them, slide under them – and just fool around with them. The museum staff was having a tough time stopping people from doing just that, even though, I wonder if Kapoor would really mind. The works looked too solid to be easily harmed by anyone.”
Well, there was no museum staff to police people here, and boy, were they fooling around with the sculpture? You could see people being attracted to its shiny, curved reflective surface almost against their will. They would stare at it, crawl under it, run their palms on its smooth surface, and then slowly the camera would come out and they would go nuts shooting their own distorted reflections, or in my case, taking post-modern pictures of me taking pictures of Sid, which he has expressly forbidden me from publishing on this blog.
The work did exactly what good public art should do – get people curious, interested, fascinated and, at the end, exhilarated.
According to Wikipedia, the people of Chicago started referring to the sculpture as The Bean even before it was fully unveiled, thanks to its inverted bean shape. Kapoor thought the name "completely stupid", and went on to name it Cloud Gate. Of course, I didn't come across one person in the city who called it that. But then again, looking at his amazingly tactile works, one would imagine that Kapoor made them specifically for people to physically interact with. Yet, as Girish said in a comment to my previous blogpost, he absolutely hates the public touching his works. The fact that the people anyway call his work The Bean and continue to touch it in fascination goes to show how the city has appropriated his sculpture. It is a measure of how this public work of art has truly gone public. Would Kapoor have wanted it any other way?