Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Flamingo Gets a Facelift

I recently spent a few days in downtown Chicago and, as always, whenever I visit the Windy City, I try to drop by and say hello to a few "friends" such as the "Picasso" in Daley Plaza, Chagall's "Four Seasons" on Dearborn St, "Cloud Gate" in Millenium Park, and of course my favorite - the "Flamingo" by Alexander Calder in Federal Plaza.

This visit, however, would be a little different than previous ones. I had read that the Flamingo was undergoing a major 1/4-million-dollar renovation and I was really excited to see what it would look like while "under wraps".

My first impression took me by surprise. It looked like the Flamingo had been carefully boxed up and left at the curb to await the arrival of a huge FedEx truck for pickup and delivery. I half-expected to find a shipping label and a "FRAGILE" sticker slapped on the side somewhere.  I suppose it's understandable that I would feel this way since I've packed up hundreds of mobiles and stabiles and have spent countless hours figuring out ways to deal with the enclosure of unusual and fragile shapes for safe shipping.  I felt like I could relate (in a small way) to the efforts the restoration crew must have taken to enlcose the Flamingo like this.  My understanding is that this was not done to protect the sculpture during restoration, but rather to prevent the byproducts of the restoration process such as dust, paint, and debris from getting distributed in the air all around the plaza.

Calder Flamingo Restoration                 - photo by R.Bissell
My second impression was the same one that I always have every time I visit this amazement of how BIG it is. Looking at it this way, enclosed within a geometric shape, I realized that my house could easily fit inside a container this huge.

As I walked around looking at the "Shrouded Flamingo" from different angles, my third impression was how interesting and beautiful the scaffolding and plastic sheets looked in the early morning light. It was impossible to not make a conparison to a Christo installation.  I've never seen one in person, but having seen this, I think I've probably come away with a close approximation.  It is quite interesting to view a large iconic object completely obscured and gift-wwrapped  in the middle of a city plaza.

Calder Flamingo Restoration                                   - photo by R. Bissell
As far as I know, this is the first major renovation to the Flamingo since its installation more than 38 years ago.  The restoration includes a top coat of an extra durable primer followed by a full repainting in the trademark Calder Red that can be found on so many of his stabiles.  I'm sure that it will be magnificant to see when the restoration is complete but I'm really happy that I was able to see it like was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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