Daley Plaza Picasso Sculpture Turning 50; So What Is It?

CHICAGO (CBS) — Bright, sunny skies shone down on Daley Plaza on Tuesday as Chicago celebrated the 50th anniversary of the iconic Picasso sculpture in the heart of the Loop.

A gift from artist Pablo Picasso in 1967, countless visitors stare at the untitled sculpture and wonder; but how many people actually know what it is?

Ask someone passing by the Picasso, and you’re sure to get plenty of guesses that it’s some type of animal; an elephant, a horse, a giraffe, a bird, a lion, a dog, or – most commonly – a baboon.

Of course, there are some more off-the-wall interpretations. One man who stopped to look at the Picasso on Tuesday guessed it’s a violin that has been hit by lightning.

Eric Keune, design director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architecture firm that convinced Picasso to create the landmark sculpture, said it was inspired in large part by Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque.

Keune also shared a little-known secret: viewing the Picasso from just the right angle reveals the profile of a woman.

“You can really see the profile of her face, and the profile of her lips and chin when you come at it from the back,” from an approximately 45-degree angle, according to Keune. “It’s also a combination of her profile – these are derived from sketches that he did – along with their Afghan hound, Kabul.”

City officials planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Picasso on Tuesday by restaging the original 1967 unveiling. The party is happening a week early; the actual unveiling was on Aug. 15, 1967.

The Picasso was met with mixed reviews when it was first unveiled, but has become a popular symbol of Chicago, often donning hats or helmets of Chicago’s professional sports teams when they make the playoffs. Generations of Chicago children also have used it as a makeground playground slide when visiting downtown.

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