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Public Art & Exhibitions

Navy Pier is an architectural gem and an engineering marvel. Sitting nearly a mile into Lake Michigan and dating back more than 100 years, “The People’s Pier” blends form and function, the old and the new, to create one of the most unique structures in the world. That makes Navy Pier the perfect place to gather and display public art and exhibitions.

As it enters its second century, Navy Pier has become a community-focused cultural district. Our eclectic array of public art and exhibitions reflects both our physical space and our philosophical mission. As the nonprofit stewards of a large, public place, we commit to present iconic, contemporary art installations and exhibitions that attract, excite and inspire our guests. We offer art that is free and accessible to all.

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Art Events

The Beach Chicago

Free Public Program

Saturday, January 19, 2019 - Sunday, February 3, 2019
Aon Grand Ballroom

Free public program! Escape the bitter cold Chicago weather this winter at this immersive art installation, featuring a ‘sea’ of more than a million plastic balls.

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Presented by Navy Pier and Expo Chicago
Supported by The Chicago Free For All Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, the Navy Pier Associate Board and Hilton Worldwide

Free and open to the public! Created by New York- based designers, Snarkitecture, The Beach Chicago is an immersive art installation, which consists of a large, open room filled with more than a million antimicrobial and recyclable plastic balls, along with deck chairs, lifeguard chairs, umbrellas and signage that mimic the sensation of a day at the beach.

Fittingly, The Beach Chicago also includes a pier hovering over the ‘sea’ of balls from which onlookers can watch and revel in the installation below.

Escape the bitter cold Chicago weather this winter with a day at The Beach Chicago, on display in Navy Pier’s historic Aon Grand Ballroom from January 19 through February 3, 2019.

Joining us for this event? Please read: Notice of Waiver & Release – The Beach Chicago. Note that guests are encouraged to bring extra socks, as wearing shoes in the ball pit is strongly discouraged.

Book an Event at The Beach Chicago

The Beach Chicago is now booking private and semi-private event space at The Beach Chicago for birthday parties, corporate outings and more. Download an information sheet here.

To inquire about private and semi-private events at The Beach Chicago, please call Group Sales at 312-595-5300, or inquire online.

Plan Your Visit

Public Hours*

Saturday, Jan. 19: 11am – 8pm
Sunday, Jan. 20: 11am – 5pm
Monday, Jan. 21: 11am – 2pm
Wednesday, Jan. 23: 3pm – 8pm
Thursday, Jan. 24: 3pm – 8pm
Friday, Jan. 25: 11am – 8pm
Saturday, Jan. 26: 11am – 8pm 
Sunday, Jan. 27: 11am –  5pm
Wednesday, Jan. 30: 3pm – 8pm
Thursday, Jan. 31: 3pm – 8pm
Friday, Feb. 1: 11am – 8pm
Saturday, Feb. 2: 11am – 8pm
Sunday, Feb. 3: 11am – 5pm

*Please note: Due to high volume of interest in The Beach Chicago, Navy Pier may close the lines to the exhibit prior to the posted closing time. Admission is not guaranteedThe Beach Chicago will also be closed for private events on Tuesday, Jan. 22; Monday, Jan. 28;  and Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Where to stay

Stay at select Hilton hotels and show your keycard at Navy Pier’s Guest Services Desk at the Pier’s west entrance to receive complimentary fast pass access at the event.

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Rules

For the best experience, please be sure to familiarize yourself with important rules and policies before visiting The Beach Chicago.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the nearest parking for The Beach ChicagoIf driving, for the closest access, park in the East Parking Garage. If full, park in the West Parking Garage and walk towards the east end of Navy Pier to the Aon Grand Ballroom. If taking a taxi or rideshare, request drop off at Entrance 2.

Is Navy Pier’s Youth Escort Policy in place for The Beach Chicago? Yes. Navy Pier guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at all times. The parent or legal guardian is responsible for the safety and conduct of minor guests in their party. Guests may be asked to present a valid driver’s license, state ID or military ID upon entering all Navy Pier’s facilities or grounds.

Is The Beach Chicago wheelchair accessible? Yes, The Beach Chicago is wheelchair accessible.

Is there stroller parking at The Beach ChicagoDue to the amount of activity space, there is no designated location for strollers. Strollers can be checked at coat check.

Is there someone to watch my child(ren)’s shoes or coat while they are participating in the activities? No, parents and/or chaperones are responsible for all personal belongings.

Pier-Wide Promotional Offers

Enhance your The Beach Chicago experience with special offers at participating Navy Pier restaurants, shops and attractions.

Must present proof of attendance in the form of collateral provided upon exiting The Beach Chicago in order to redeem offers at Navy Pier partner establishments listed below. Offers cannot be combined with other discounts, promotions or sales. Offers are only valid at Navy Pier locations and throughout the duration of The Beach Chicago (1/19/19 – 2/3/19).

*Coupon expires February 3, 2019. Valid at Navy Pier location only. Valid on Build-A-Bear Workshop® furry friends, clothing and accessories. Not valid on Pokémon® furry friends. Not valid on prior purchases, a Build-A-Party® celebration, Count Your Candles offer or Bear Bucks® cards. Coupons may not be combined and may not be bought, sold or exchanged for cash or coupons. May not be combined with any other offer. GST, HST, TVQ or PST, as applicable, are payable by bearer. Must present original coupon at time of purchase. Altering, copying, publishing or disseminating coupon by any means whatsoever, including electronic, is prohibited and invalidates coupon or 7-digit code. Valid for original coupon recipient only. Limit one coupon per person, per visit. Non-transferable. Offer good while supplies last. Void where prohibited or restricted

Special Installations & Exhibitions

Chakaia Booker: Four Sculptures

Free Public Program

Friday, April 20, 2018 - Tuesday, April 23, 2019

View four sculptural works by artist Chakaia Booker, on display in locations throughout Navy Pier, now through April 2019.

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Since 1994 Chakaia Booker has made abstract sculptures from discarded rubber tires salvaged from city streets, auto body shops, and dump sites. Cutting, shredding, bending, and transforming them into wild organic shapes, she creates objects that evoke the human body and spirit, without being literal representations.  Today, she works almost exclusively with recycled tires—slicing, twisting, stripping, weaving, and riveting rubber and radials to create and exaggerate the textures, prickled edges, and torqued forms of her radical refashioning. Whether she is creating small-scale wall reliefs resembling ballistic blowouts, suggestively hairy and ovoid pedestal sculptures, or colossal landscape-like tableaux, Booker transforms tires—iconic symbols of urban waste and blight—into extraordinary compositions of renewal.

Booker received a B.A. in sociology from Rutgers University in 1976, and an M.F.A. from the City College of New York in 1993. She gained international acclaim at the 2000 Whitney Biennial with It’s So Hard to Be Green (2000), her 12.5 x 21 foot wall-hung tire sculpture. Booker received the Pollock-Krasner Grant in 2002 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. She has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally.

Six sculptures by Booker have been on view in Millennium Park since 2016; four of those works will come to Navy Pier this April (two sited on Illinois Street just outside the entrance of Navy Pier; one on the south dock at the entrance; and one in Pier Park).

Pass the Buck

2008; Rubber tires and stainless steel, 102 x 96 x 84 inches

Booker’s inspiration for this sculpture was Madam C. J. Walker–best known for developing a successful line of hair-care and beauty products for black women–and considered by many to be the first African American businesswoman and philanthropist. For the artist, this sculpture evokes the pursuit of success and giving back to society.

Take Out

2008

Take Out is a whimsical piece embellished with large, looping, swirling tendrils of tire. Evoking photographs and reflections through its frame- or mirror-like rectangular shape, Take Out invites viewers to explore and engage in the Chicago cityscape and alternately, views of the Centennial Wheel in Pier Park.

Shape Shifter

2012; Rubber tires and stainless steel, 192 x 102 x 78 inches

 

Gridlock

2008; Rubber tire and stainless steel, 2 pieces, 100 x 48 x 20 inches

Gridlock represents a symbol of human journey and life—shows an interplay of concave and convex spaces. The title references travel patterns in cities.

“My work challenges the notion that tires are uniformly black. I want to encourage people to examine assumptions about color, patterns, textures, and functions…. Also, our assumptions about most subject matter, including people, their diversity, and the diversity of ideas and perceptions.” – Chakaia Booker

Iván Navarro: This Land is Your Land

Free Public Program

Friday, July 27, 2018 - Monday, September 30, 2019

Artist Iván Navarro transforms three water towers into hauntingly beautiful sculptural objects, featuring infinitely reflective neon interiors.

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An image that has been a part of the upper realms of Chicago’s landscape comes “down to earth” to Polk Bros Park. Three hauntingly beautiful water towers are transformed as sculptural objects with neon interiors. Viewers are invited to stand beneath them and gaze above to experience. 

About This Land is Your Land

Originally debuted at New York’s Madison Square Park in 2014, the three sculptures – BED, Ladder and ME/WE – are composed of neon-lit interiors with infinite reflections of each structure’s respective design. One tower consists of a limitless repetition of the word, “BED;” another features the boundless image of a ladder; and the third displays the words, “ME” and “WE” in redundancy. An internal arrangement of mirrors enables each word or image to repeat perpetually through a seemingly endless vertical space. Measuring at approximately seven feet in diameter and erected on roughly eight-foot-tall supports, each tower allows guests the ability to stand underneath the sculpture and gaze above for a truly unique viewing experience.

Ladder (Water Tower)

2014, Neon, wood, painted steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, mirror, one-way mirror, and electric energy, 189 x 105 1/8 x 105 1/8 inches, 480.1 x 267 x 267 cm, Edition of 3 + 1 AP

Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Images courtesy of Iván Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery

ME/WE (Water Tower)

2014, neon, wood, painted steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, mirror and one-way mirror, and electric energy, 189 x 105 1/8 x 105 1/8 inches, 480.1 x 267 x 267 cm, Edition of 3 + 1 AP, (PK 18175)

Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Images courtesy of Iván Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery

BED (Water Tower)

2014, Neon, wood, painted steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, mirror, one-way mirror, and electric energy, 189 x 105 1/8 x 105 1/8 inches, 480.1 x 267 x 267 cm, Edition of 3 + 1 AP

Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Images courtesy of Iván Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery

About IVÁN NAVARRO

Born in Santiago, Chile 1972
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

Iván Navarro was born in 1972 in Santiago, Chile, where he grew up under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. He is known internationally for his socio-politically charged sculptures of neon, fluorescent and incandescent light. Navarro’s unique and captivating use of light transforms the exhibition space by means of visual interplay. Navarro represented Chile at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Learn more at paulkasmingallery.com

Loop

Free Public Program

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - Sunday, May 12, 2019
Polk Bros Park

Free public program! Experience The Art Loop, a free, interactive art installation for all ages in Polk Bros Park.

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Free and open to the public!  Experience Loop, a free, interactive art installation for all ages, in Polk Bros Park!

This illuminated musical installation, featuring a distinctive retro-futuristic look, uses cylinders two meters in diameter. Members of the public are invited to sit down inside and activate the mechanism, causing beautiful images inspired by 13 fairy tales to come to life. Loop is sure to spark children’s imagination and revive their parents’ childhood memories.

Loop is a cross between a music box, a zoetrope and a railway handcar – the pump-powered vehicles familiar from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The retro-futuristic machine plays animated fairy-tale loops set in motion when visitors work the lever together. When the cylinder starts spinning, it lights up, making the series of still images appear to move. A flickering strobe effect accompanies the black and white images, like in the very first movies.

The animation is visible from inside or outside the cylinder and can be viewed from up close or far away. The speed at which the images move, the frequency of the flickering and the tempo of the music are determined by how fast the participants move the lever.

Photos: Ulysse Lemerise / OSA

About the Creators

A work by Ekumen, designed by Olivier Girouard, Jonathan Villeneuve, and Ottoblix in collaboration with Generique Design, Jérôme Roy and Thomas Ouellet Fredericks.

Works Credits

Conception and execution: Olivier Girouard, Jonathan Villeneuve and Ottoblix

Production: Ekumen and Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, Montreal, Canada

Public Art & Historical Points of Interest

Meet me at the “P”

The Polk family—siblings Sol, Morris, Goldie, Sam, David and Harry— changed the course of American retail, the face of Chicago’s neighborhoods, and the everyday lives of Chicago’s working families. The Meet Me at the “P” sculpture at Navy Pier commemorates their impact and celebrates the changes they made.

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Meet me at the “P” is an aluminum statue designed by Kym Abrams and dedicated to the lasting change from the Polk family.

PLAQUE INSCRIPTION
The Polk family—siblings Sol, Morris, Goldie, Sam, David and Harry— changed the course of American retail, the face of Chicago’s neighborhoods, and the everyday lives of Chicago’s working families. From 1935 to 1992, the Polk Bros chain of appliance and furniture stores put luxury and convenience within reach, offering discounted prices on essential household goods and strengthening the economic base on which vibrant communities depend. In the process, what began as a single store in Portage Park, opened by the sons of Eastern European immigrants, became a Chicago institution: a vital fixture in 17 neighborhoods and the most successful Chicago retailer that never opened a store downtown.

Bob Newhart Statue

Designed for visitor participation, lie on the couch and pour out your troubles to bronze Bob Hartley, the 1970s psychologist from The Bob Newhart Show.

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Created by Studio EIS in New York, this life-sized Bob Newhart statue was commissioned by nostalgia cable channel TV Land and unveiled to the City of Chicago on July 27, 2004 by the company’s president Larry W. Jones. In November 2004, the statue was moved to Navy Pier. The statue was designed for visitor participation and is best enjoyed by interacting with the famous tv psychologist Bob Hartley in bronze.

Captain On The Helm

The Captain of the Helm statue, dedicated in 2000, commemorates the bravest mariners and celebrates their contributions to our city and its history.

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The Captain On The Helm bronze statue is located just south of the entrance to Navy Pier. The statue was a gift from the Chicago Lodge of Shipmasters International and sculpted by Michael Martino. Dedicated on May 19, 2000, the plaque acknowledges: “To those courageous mariners who guided their ships through perilous waters, carrying cargo and people. Their contributions have been so much a part of our history. May they never be forgotten.” In front of the statue is engraved brickwork with the names of many legendary Captains as well as other contributors to the project.

Crack the Whip

Join in on the fun and pose with the children in the life-like Crack the Whip bronze sculpture!

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Created by world-renowned sculptor J. Seward Johnson, Jr., Crack the Whip was installed at Navy Pier in 1996. This whimsical depiction of eight children at play shows them holding hands and running in a semi-circle. A girl on one end appears to be falling down but is held up by the support of the others, who all lean back. Another girl has lost her shoe.

U.S.S. Chicago Anchor

This 8-ton anchor comes from the U.S.S. Chicago and was installed at Navy Pier in 1995. The U.S.S. Chicago, which was funded by the citizens of Chicago and completed in 1945, saw action from several wars in the 20th century and received several commendations for her service.

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This 8-ton anchor installed on Navy Pier in 1995 was from the U.S.S. Chicago, the third ship to bear the name Chicago. Funded by the citizens of Chicago and completed in 1945, U.S.S. Chicago was classified as a heavy cruiser and later converted to a guided missile cruiser. She saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and received several commendations before she was dismantled in 1984. In August 2012, former sailors who served aboard the U.S.S. Chicago and reconnected through social media, came to the Pier to restore the ship’s anchor back to its original color.

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