Before I start, remember that I am an economist and not an art critic. However, in my opinion “The Bean” (formally known as Cloud Gate) in Chicago’s Millennium Park is one of the most incredible works of public art ever created. Designed by Indian born British artist Anish Kapoor, The Bean was chosen over proposals by thirty other artists. What an excellent choice!
In this economists opinion good public art should meet three criteria. First of all, the art should be relevant to the masses, not just a special segment of the population. Second, the art should be naturally interactive, meaning that people feel moved to “interact” with the art in a way that means the most to them. Third, the art should create joy and happiness for those who interact with it. Based on these criteria I’m giving The Bean my ultimate public art award.
Relevant to the masses: Much of public art is simply boring, except perhaps to art critics. The spoon and cherry in Minneapolis is cool but isn’t something that I would see more than once or twice. The Bean appeals to every human being, from 5 to 95! I could stand for an hour looking at the reaction of people that approach The Bean. Children absolutely love it and can’t pull themselves away from it. Adults are also enthralled with the images projected by The Bean.
Naturally Interactive: There aren’t any signs by The Bean that say, “Lie down on the ground and put your feet on me” or “Stand with your hands on me and look up at your reflection” or “stand directly under me and see your face on four different surfaces.” People just naturally get themselves in different positions to see their reflections and The Bean obliges. The Bean is the most naturally interactive art object that I have ever witnessed.
Creates Joy: Look at the smiles of virtually everyone that comes to The Bean. The joy is obvious, and on a weekend in the summer there are probably 300 people constantly interacting with the Bean. It is as if all of a sudden there was a spot on planet earth that creates fun, joy and happiness. In my observations, that spot happens to be The Bean.