In March of 1963, the Daley Center architecture team consisting of Bruce Graham, William Hartmann, C.F. Murphy, Sr., C.F. Murphy, Jr., Jacques Brownson, Carter Manny, and Jerry Loebl met to vote on which sculptor to ask to create a large-scale work for the Daley Center Plaza. The group voted unanimously on one of the most popular artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso.
Thus started the wooing process of the famed artist. Though many factors likely went into Picasso’s decision to work on this sculpture, the warm friendship that arose between him and Bill Hartmann, as well as a prose-poem that Dick Bennett wrote to the artist were probably the deciding factors.
(for the Bennett’s prose-poem, please see the previous History item)
After he decided to design a sculpture for Chicago, Picasso was credited as saying, "You know I never accept commissions to do any sort of work, but in this case I am involved in projects for the two great gangster cities." The other city to which Picasso referred was Marseille, France, largely known for its smuggling of illegal goods.
Near its completion, Picasso was offered a check for $100,000 for his work on the 50 foot sculpture, but Picasso refused payment, saying that he wanted the sculpture to be his gift to the Chicago people. To cover the cost of the construction, the $300,000 used was donated by three Chicago foundations: the Field Foundation, the McCormick-Deering Foundation, and the Woods Charitable Trust. The fabrication of the sculpture in Cor-Ten steel, (the same materials used on the Daley Center itself), was performed by the American Bridge Division of the U.S. Steel Corporation.
The final product was revealed on Tuesday, August 15, 1967. At this ceremony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played and a choir sang the national anthem to mark this momentous day. Though Chicago was elated to receive this gift, similar to other works of Picasso, most people were confused as to what the sculpture represented. However, most believe that Picasso’s work depicts a woman’s head.
This unveiling marked the first of several major public art commissions in Chicago, including those from Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, and Joan Miro.
Many years later, the Chicago Picasso still has an impact on the city. In 1992, architecture critic Paul Gapp wrote that "None can match the Chicago Picasso for power and popularity. Young and old like it, thousands photograph it and rarely does one hear any more cranky complaints about its figural ambiguity. Furthermore, the steely, generously scaled sculpture is in perfect counterpoint to the Daley Civic Center, one of the city's great masterpieces of modern architecture."