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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

SOFA Chicago
Thursday, November 1, 2018 - Sunday, November 4, 2018
Festival Hall

The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design (SOFA) Fair in Chicago is the premier gallery-presented art fair dedicated to three-dimensional art and design.

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The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design (SOFA) Fair in Chicago is the premier gallery-presented art fair dedicated to three-dimensional art and design. On par with Art Basel and TEFAF Maastricht, SOFA is produced by Urban Expositions, a Clarion Events company.

Critically acclaimed and continuously running since 1994, what distinguishes SOFA from other top art events is its focus on three-dimensional artworks that cross the boundaries of fine art, decorative art and design. SOFA is noted for its exceptional presentation, with an elite selection of international dealers presenting for sale one-of-a-kind masterworks in handsome, custom-designed gallery exhibits.

SOFA is held annually in the fall at Chicago’s major destination, Navy Pier, with an average of 80 dealers and 35,000 people attending. Sales at the fair are estimated at 15-20 million dollars per show.

With a strong educational emphasis, SOFA CHICAGO includes an acclaimed lecture series and special exhibits exploring the artworks on view and surveying new trends in the art world. A VIP program includes exclusive events tailored to high-profile gallery clients and collector/museum groups.

SOFA has evolved into a dynamic international marketplace and community – a confluence of perspectives where art, design and people intersect.

Learn more about the exhibit or buy tickets.

Special Installations & Exhibitions

Chakaia Booker: Four Sculptures

Free Public Program

Friday, April 20, 2018 - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

View four sculptural works by artist Chakaia Booker, on display in locations throughout Navy Pier starting April 20, 2018.

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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 - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

An image that has been a part of the upper realms of Chicago’s landscape comes “down to earth” to Polk Bros Park, July 2018-April 2019.

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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

We Are the Asteroid II

Free Public Program

Monday, September 17, 2018 - Sunday, December 2, 2018
South Dock

View this public artwork by artist and environmental activist Justin Brice Guariglia, utilizing a solar-powered LED highway message board.

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We Are the Asteroid II is a public artwork by artist and environmental activist Justin Brice Guariglia. Utilizing a solar-powered LED highway message board, Guariglia uses flashes of surprising poetry, metaphor, and humor to challenge audiences to think ecologically, while breaking down barriers to stimulate conversations about the environment. We Are the Asteroid II will be featured on display along the South Dock at Navy Pier.

Michael St Maur Sheil: Fields of Battle – Lands of Peace: The Doughboys 1917-18

Free Public Program

Friday, October 5, 2018 - Monday, November 19, 2018
Polk Bros Park

Explore images of the World War I’s European battle sites, once places of devastating violence, now landscapes of great beauty, testament to peace and remembrance.

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Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Fields of Battle at Navy Pier is generously supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

A unique portrait of the First World War battlefields, Fields of Battle – Lands of Peace: The Doughboys 1917-1918 is a powerful outdoor photographic exhibition series, by Michael St Maur Sheil, which tells of the healed scars of the First World War through our only remaining living witness: the fields of battle themselves.

Completely free to view, the exhibition brings us the story of reconciliation across the lands of the warring nations. Once places of devastating violence, we now see landscapes of great beauty, testament to peace and remembrance.

With a focus on education and ideal for adults and children alike, this engaging exhibition features meticulously researched content including archive images and fascinating facts to support Michael’s contemporary battlefield images.

Fields of Battle – Lands of Peace: The Doughboys 1917-18

‘Doughboys 1917-18’ is a photographic exhibition designed to be shown outdoors in public places thus providing easy access for the maximum number of people. Using simple, modular construction, it is easy to transport and construct, making it an ideal medium for reaching out to people in city centers across the United States.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, is the organizing institution for this U.S. tour.

This exhibition, comprised of photographs of the battlefields as they are today together with archival photographs, will act as a visual gateway to the fields where the conflict was fought, thus enabling the visitor to see for themselves how one hundred years ago the history of the world was changed in such a dramatic and tragic fashion.

The exhibition is compelling in an outdoor setting. By being presented in public places, such as city parks and squares, this exhibition reaches people who have varied interests in the subject who are simply attracted by the power of the imagery, and does not require knowledge of World War I.

About the Photographer: Michael St Maur Sheil

Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18 is the work of photo-journalist, historian and battlefields guide, Michael St Maur Sheil. Captured over a period of eight years, Michael’s photography combines a passion for history and landscape and presents a unique reflection on the transformation of the battlefields of the Great War into the landscape of modern Europe.

Michael commented: “This collection represents a legacy which I hope will create a gateway to the battlefields themselves, thus encouraging people to visit these historic landscapes during the centennial period and so create awareness and understanding of the events and historical implications of the First World War”.

After studying Geography at Oxford, in the early 1970’s Mike began his life as a photo-journalist by covering ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Here he became associated with the New York picture agency, Black Star, and over thirty years later he is still in the fortunate position of being paid to do what he loves doing – taking photographs.

Michael has visited over 60 countries around the world, working for a wide range of clients such as ABC-TV, BBC, Anti-Slavery International, British Red Cross, European Commission, National Geographic, New York Times, Shell, Time & Time Life.

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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