Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

I am in Chicago again

28 Aug – 2 Sep 2005: Chicago, USA

Three years ago, I flew from Louisville to Chicago for a weekend getaway and immediately fell in love with this Windy City. Today, I am in Chicago again. Since I arrived early for this conference trip, it gave me a second chance to re-explore the downtown area (better known as the “Loop”) and deepened admiration for this beautiful city. 

chicago 200 

chicago 201      

Grant Park     

Grant Park is Chicago’s principal downtown park. The Great Fire of 1871 destroyed most of the buildings in Chicago and much of the debris was pushed into the lake, creating a landfill for what is now the actual park. There were initial plans to develop the park with large buildings and commercial property. But a Chicagoan citizen, Montgomery Ward, brought the plan to court and won the case (after 20 years!) in 1911. Since then, Grant Park remains as a public open space, where outdoor concerts are held and weekend street vendors sell icy cold beers and snacks.  grant park 201  

grant park 202   

Located between Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan, this park offers a great view of the blue lake, covered with scores of yachts and fluttering clouds. The track along the lake is very popular amongst strollers, joggers and bikers. One relaxing thing to do is to grab a cold beer and a hotdog bun (laced with ketchup and mustard, sprinkled with freshly chopped onions), sit back and watch the passer-by.

michigan lake 201   

Grant Park has several lawns, fountains, monuments and sculptures. One of the interesting sculptures is the Spearman, designed in 1926 by Ivan Mestrovic to commemorate the Native Americans. The 22-feet tall bronze Indian warrior, striding on a massive horse, is preparing to throw his spear. Except that his spear are not actually present but left to the viewer’s imagination.

chicago 202 chicago 203

Sculptor Dessa Kirk created Daphne, such that in summer, the sculpture becomes part of the surrounding garden with vines and flowers that fill up the skirt of her dress.

chicago 204   

In the rose gardens lay four circular fountains with bronze figures sculptured by Leonard Crunelle  in the centre. The South Rose Garden has the “Dove Girl” and “Turtle Boy” while the  North Rose Garden has “Crane Girl” and “Fisher Boy”…

grant park 203       

Buckingham Fountain    

Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain is another of Chicago’s popular landmark.  The work was commissioned by Kate Buckingham (philanthropist and art patron) in 1927 to honor her late brother Clarence Buckingham.  Kate frequently traveled to Europe and admired the huge public fountains; she donated one million dollars to build this European style monument (based on the ‘Bassin de Latome’ at the Versailles Palace near Paris) in Chicago.      The fountain, consisting of 3 layers of basins, rises more than 7 meters high and is surrounded by four pairs of bronze seahorses. Each sea-horse symbolizes a state bordering Lake Michigan (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin) while the fountain represents the lake itself. There is a fountain water display at every hour and its central jet can shoot water up to 46m high!

 buckingham fountain 202

buckingham fountain 203    

 Millennium Park    

Next to the Grant Park is the Millennium Park . Opened in 2001, this park is big enough to house an outdoor music pavilion, an ice rink and a under-ground theater.  The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is an impressive outdoor music pavilion. Standing at 120-feet high, it has a billowing headdress of brushed stainless steel ribbons that frame the stage opening and connect to an overhead trellis of crisscrossing steel pipes. The trellis supports the sound system for an area which can accomodate more than 10,000 people.    

millennium park 203   

 millennium park 204  

Inspired by liquid mercury, Cloud Gate is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged with seamlessly pieced of highly polished stainless steel plates. Reflecting the city’s famous skyline and the cloud above it, this 12-foot-high sculpture signifies a “gate”  by allowing visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.

millennium park 201         

Navy Pier        

Near Streeterville and sitting in Lake Michigan is Navy Pier. Built in 1916, this pier was designed as a shipping and entertainment area.

navy pier 200   

navy pier 201 

There are a few ships available for chartering. One of them is the historic ‘El Presidente’ which was used by US presidents.

navy pier 203navy pier 204

navy pier 207navy pier 206

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows is the first museum in the United States dedicated solely to stained glass windows. Opened in 2000, it has a permanent display of 150 stained glass windows housed in an 800 feet-long galleries. It showcases both secular and religious windows with four artistic themes: Victorian, Prairie, Modern and Contemporary.

glass painting museum 200   

glass painting museum 204 glass painting museum 205  

glass painting museum 206

glass painting museum 203


Read Full Post »

2 Sep 2005: Chicago, USA

Chicago is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper and a trendsetter in urban architecture. Like the legendary firebird, the Great Fire of 1871 destroyed all major buildings in this city; it also gave her a new lease of life. Chicago is a must for people interested in 20th century urban architecture.   

The Magnificent Mile  

The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s version of the Champs-Elysées. It is a shopper’s paradise and a grand boulevard filled with exclusive shops, museums, restaurants and ritzy hotels. Architectural landmarks such as the John Hancock Center and the Tribune Tower are located along this avenue. Its “magnificance” does not stop here. Beyond this striving mile is a great city adorned with superb skyscrapers. Here were the evidences…  

navy pier 208  

Sear Tower

When Sears Tower was completed in 1974, it was the tallest building in the world. It held the title until 1997, where it was , eclipsed by the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
sears tower 204
sears tower 203
Nonetheless, the Sears Tower is still the tallest skyscraper in Chicago. The building is made up of nine framed tubes pieced together to form one building.  The nine tubes reach up to forty-nine stories and at that point, two tubes end and the rest rises up to the sixty-fifth floor From far, the tower has the shape of a crucifix.  From an architectural standpoint, Fazlur Kahn (1929-82) designed the tubes to provide lateral strengths for withstanding the strong Chicago wind. There is an observation deck or skydeck at the top floor. The skydeck has a “ledge” or a glass balcony extending 4.3 ft where you can look straight down.
 sears tower 200  

Michigan Avenue Bridge  

The Michigan Avenue Bridge was built in 1920 to connect the Michigan Avenue with Pine Street, separated by the Chicago River. The beautiful bridge was modeled on the Pont Alexandre III in Paris and enables traffic to move freely from the busy South Michigan Avenue
wrigley building 203
Tribune Tower  
Near the Michigan Avenue Bridge is a neo-gothic building called the Tribune Tower. The building was completed in 1925 and reaches 141 m tall. It was model after the Button Tower of the Rouen Cathedral in France with a distinctive decorative buttresses at the top. The most fascinating thing about the Tribune Tower is its rock collection. Many famous stones are incorporated in the wall – rock fragments from the Alamo, the Colosseum, the Chinese Great Wall and the most important moon rock.

chicago 207

Wrigley Building
To the north side of the Michigan River lies the famous Wrigley Building, the headquarters of the Wrigley Chewing Gum company. Built in 1920, this well-proportioned architecture was modeled on the Giralda tower of the cathedral in Sevilla. The a structures are  connected by an walkway on the 14th story.
wrigley building 201  



wrigley building 205  

Chicago Theatre

The Chicago Theatre was born during the Golden Age of entertainment in Chicago. Built in 1921 and costed more than US$4 million , it was the first truly lavish movie theater built in America. The grand lobby was modeled after the Royal Chapel of Versailles. Facing the street is a “mini” Arc de Triomphe of Paris and the iconic red signage spelt “CHICAGO”. The theater is 7 stories high and has a 3,600 seats capacity. 

=chicago 206 

Read Full Post »

2 Sep 2005: Chicago

Well known as the “Windy City”, one would logically think that Chicago earns her name from the strong breezes of Michigan Lake. Nah! According to the locals, the nickname is not for the wind, but for the politicians and city boosters who talk like “a big wind blowing through the city”.  Whether it is the wind or the trumpeting politician, I personally think that Chicago is more like an art city. Apart from its famous Art Institute of Chicago, the downtown Loop is filled with great scupltures and wonderful, timeless art pieces. Here were some of my personal favourites:

Picasso @ Daley Plaza

  Standing at 50 feet tall and weighs 162 tons, this unnamed work that graces Daley Plaza was a gift from Picasso to the city and gained intense speculation of what it represents… Perhaps only Picasso himself fully understand the sculpture – whether it was a bird, a woman or a baboon?

picasso 200


picasso 202

Joan Miro’s Chicago @ Richard J Daley Square

Directly south of  Chicago Picasso on Washington Street stands Joan Miró’s Chicago. This 39 feet tall steel-reinforced, bronze and ceramic sculpture depicts an abstracted female figure with slim waist and outstretched arms, topped with a simplified head with fork-like shape sticking out of her head. Her skirt resembles an overturned chalice, which is embedded with ceramic tiles.  
joan miro 200

St Peter’s Church

I was taken aback by the beauty of this giant crucifix in downtown Catholic St. Peter’s Church.  Called “Christ of the Loop”, the sculptor Arvid Strauss fills the Gothic arch in the center of the main facade with this beautiful, 18-feet pink marble-sculpture of Jesus Christ.
 st peter church 200
Marshall Field’s Great Old Clock

Much to most disappointment, Chicago departmental store chain Marshall Field & Company was recently acquired by Macy’s Inc. on 30 August 2005. Luckily, one thing stayed: my treasure find was the great old clock on the former flagship Marshall Field and Company Building located on State Street.

chicago 209

Smith Museum of Stained Glass

This loud and brightly painted arm-chair and leg rest immediately caught my attention at the Navy Pier, just outside the Smith Museum of Stained Glass.

glass painting museum 201

Finally, on the way back to the hotel, a street performing student making stunts. Street Art?

street bustler 201street bustler 200


Read Full Post »

Chicago Blues

31 May – 2 Jun 2002: Chicago, Illinois

I am planning an “escape” from Louisville this weekend. Nearing 14 days in this city, I just need to get out for some fresh airs. On Friday afternoon, I left on Southwest airline. My destination? It’s the most “windy city” of Chicago. What’s more than what I bargained for, it happens to be the Blue Festival too.   

Could not believe my luck, but my last-minute booking at Hilton Chicago turned out to be pleasantly cheap. Located at South Michigan Avenue, it was a perfect downtown location overlooking the Grant Park and Lake Michigan. I headed towards Grant Park straight away, following the luring blue jazz music. 

Chicago Blues Festival

The Chicago Blues Festival is an annual event with three days performances by top-tier blues musicians. It always takes place in early June at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park. The festival started in 1984, one year following the death of Muddy Waters, who is generally considered “the Father of Chicago Blues”. The organizer chooses a theme each year in association and in honour to a recent departed blues musician. The Blues Festival has now become the largest of the city’s music festivals.

The crowd at the Petrillo Music Shell was unbelievable. Many more people had flocked in front of the concert stage with their field chairs, floor mats and dinner. There was hardly any room for comfort. I began to naturally drift away from the congestions, towards the Michigan Lake. Saw this grand and beautiful Buckingham Fountain right in the middle of the Grant Park.



The walkway along the Michigan Lake was much more pleasantly calm, despite the profoundly loud music from the festive. The city highrise buildings provided a stark skyline, contrasting against the white yachts and navy blue water.  Here, I sat down and enjoyed the remaining moments of the setting sun.



The Art Institute of Chicago 

By next morning, I was all geared up to explore the city. The first stop was the Art Institute of Chicago. I was greeted by the two famous bronze lions, standing proudly at the entrance to the museum. Built in 1879, the collection is so extensive that I have to pen down the experience separately.

 Field Museum 

Chicago’s Field Museum is one of the finest natural history museums in the world. It was initially founded to exhibit the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. After more than a century later, the museum has grown into a home for more than 20 million specimens and a 25,000 volume natural history library.

In the main hall stands the famous T-Rex named Sue at 12 feet high and 42 feet long. This is the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex ever unearthed.



Shedd Museum 

The Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is located in the Grant Park Museum Complex. Here, you can get a good view of the marine life in the Caribbean Reef,including sharks and stingray.
The huge Oceanarium offers shows during the day and provides an overview of the sea life at the pacific northwest coast, featuring the Beluga whales, sea otters, seals and the Pacific white-sided dolphins.


Before leaving the Shedd Aquarium, I took a look at the city from the top of stairs. Wow, here’s a magnificent view of Chicago’s skyline.




Navy Pier 

I was told not to miss the Navy Pier on the Lake Michigan near Streeterville. It was constructed in 1916 and was (at that time) the world’s largest pier. By late 1920s, its success began to decline and had to be re-imaged as a tourist attraction and recreational centre. What remained and preserved was the Auditorium Building, which served as a Grand Ballroom now.

Some of the attractions include a 148 feet high Ferris Wheel and a 44 feet high musical carousel with 36 hand-painted animals. It has a skyline stage which is used as an ice skating rink in winter and as a theatre during summer. One of my favourite visits is to the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, which was opened in 2000.





My last two days in Chicago was a refreshing experience. This city had immediately gained significant favouritism on my great travel city listing.

Read Full Post »

1 Jun 2002: Art Institute of Chicago

Imagine my thrill as I stepped into the Art Institute of Chicago. Afterall, the museum’s collection of Impressionist & Contemporary Art is one of the greatest in the country. A good news for Impressionist and Modern Art lover like me. 


Manet Edouard (1832 – 1883) was a French painter and printmaker whose accomplishment is the transition from the Realism to Impressionism. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

The Mocking of Christ (1865)   | Manet depicts the moment when Christ’s captors mock the “king of the Jews” by crowning him with thorns and covering him with a purple robe. Unlike more traditional academic religious painting that portrays Jesus as a divine, other-worldly being, the figures here are not idealized. Jesus is depicted as human and vulnerable, a man who has lost control over his own fate, awkwardly posed and unheroic in demeanor.


Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) was a French artist, widely acknowledged as the master of drawing the human figure in motion. His favourite themes for his paintings and drawings are ballerinas and race horses.

Millinery Shop (1879 – 1886)



Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) was a French painter, one of the greatest of the Post-impressionists. His works and ideas were influential in the aesthetic development of many 20th-century artists and art movements, especially Cubism. He has been called the father of modern painting.

The Basket of Apples (1893)   



French painter Claude (1840 – 1926) is commonly acknowledged as the “Father of Impressionists” for his unwavering devotion in Impressionist style  throughout his long career. In fact, his famous painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) gave the “Impressionist” group its name.

On the Bank of the Seine (1868)   



Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) was a French painter largely associated with the Impressionist movement. He applied his early works with Impressionist techniques, taking snapshots of real life, sparkling colour and light in full. However, in mid-1880s, he broke away from Impressionist and used a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women. Renior was a great worshippers of the female form and perhaps his joy in depicting them ( pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes, above all lovely women) with directness made him the best-loved of all the Impressionists for his subjects. He said: “Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”

Juggler at the Circus Fernando (1879)    


Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) is one of the leading French painters of the Post-impressionist period. He was the room-mate of Vincent van Gogh and after spending a short period with Vincent van Gogh in Arles, he abandoned imitative art for expressiveness through colour. Since then, he lived and worked in Tahiti and South Pacific.

Ancestors of Tehamana (1893)   


Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) was a French painter and a generous patron of the Impressionists, whose own works, until recently, were neglected.

Paris Street, Rainy Day (Gustave)   


Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) is widely accepted as the greatest Dutch painter and draughtsman after Rembrandt. He is the one of the greatest Post-Impressionist artists and exerted powerfully influence to the development of Expressionism in modern art. His work, all of it produced during a period of only 10 years, hauntingly conveys through its striking colour, coarse brushwork, and contoured forms the anguish of a mental illness that eventually resulted in suicide.

Self Portrait (1887)   


George Sesurat  

George Sesurat (1859 – 1891) is a french painter who was a leader in the neo-impressionist movement of the late 19th century. He spent his life studying color theories and the effects of different linear structures, truly an “art scientist”. George Sesurat is best remembered for his pointillism technique, which uses small dots or strokes of contrasting color to create subtle changes in form.   

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1886)   


 Trees (1884) | Trees is one of 40 studies Georges Seurat did for his masterpiece, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. With these studies, the artist refined the individual elements of his composition so that together they would form a harmonious whole.   



Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intense, evocative treatment of psychological and emotional themes was a major influence on the development of German Expressionism in the early 20th century. His painting The Scream (1893) is regarded as an icon of existential anguish.

Two Women on the Shore (Munch)   


Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901) was an aristocrat, the son and heir of a rich father. Whne he was young, Henri was weak and often sick. By the time he was 10, he had begun to draw and paint. Deprived of the kind of life that a normal body would have permitted, Henri lived his life wholly for his art. He led a bohemian life and frequently visited cabarets and nightclubs. He would sit at a crowded nightclub table, laughing and drinking, and at the same time he would make swift sketches. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into bright-colored paintings.

At the Moulin Rouge (1892 – 1895)   


Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) is often regarded as the most important French painter of the 20th century. He is the leader of the Fauvist movement around 1900.  Matisse pursued the expressiveness of colour throughout his career and his subjects were largely domestic or figurative.

Bathers by a River (1909 – 1916) | This is one of Matisse’s largest oil canvas painting at 2.6m x 3.92 m



Besides Matisse, Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)  is the other man who dominated the art of our century. This artist of classical greatness exhibited great visionary forays into new art and have changed our understanding of the world.

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910) | This was painted during the most abstract phase of Cubism, Picasso limited his palettes to grays, browns, and blacks and broke down forms into increasingly faceted planes that overlap and merge with one another in shallow relief.  


The Old Guitarist (1903 – 1904) | Before Cubism, Picasso went through his Blue Period, where he worked with a monochromatic palette, flattened forms, and tragic, sorrowful themes. The tragic themes and expressive style started soon after a close friend committed suicide in Paris. During this time, the artist was sympathetic to the plight of the downtrodden and painted many canvases depicting the miseries of the poor, the ill, and those cast out of society.


Joan Miró

Joan Miro (1893-1983). This Spanish artist was one of the leading exponents of Surrealism. His drawing The Kerosene Lamp has often been interpreted as autobiographical view of the artist’s studio.

The Kerosene Lamp (1924)   


The Policeman (1925)   


Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is one of the most influential of the American Pop artists. Warhol showed his signature style in Mao (1973) to portray the totalitarian propaganda and cult personality surrounding the Chinese ruler Mao Zedong (1893-1976). Warhol’s portrait exhibits duality of its realistic qualities and its plastic artificiality. The painted and silkscreened areas are played against each other in a way that questions what is more real: the image or the paint.

Mao (1973)   


Of course, there are many more artifacts and art works if these do not gain your interest. There is an Arms and Armor exhibit, spanning four centuries; exquisite European decorative arts; the museum’s celebrated photography collection; or the Asian exhibits featuring 5,000 years of art work from China, Korea, Japan, India, southwest Asia, and the Near and Middle East.
Mummy Case of Paankhenamun


Source: Information adapted from Web Museum & The Art Institute of Chicago

Read Full Post »