Let’s take you back to the early 2000s, specifically 2004.
One of the world’s largest permanent outdoor art installations is unveiled in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The man behind it all is Anish Kapoor, a British sculptor known for his large-scale works, according to the Millennium Park Foundation.
The silver structure in Millennium Park would go on to become arguably his most famous. What he likely didn’t expect at the time was that people wouldn’t call it by its intended name: Cloud Gate.
Slideshow: Early days of Cloud Gate
If you’ve visited it, you can see how that name would fit. It not only looks like a cloud, it lazily reflects the clouds above Chicago’s skyline, making even the dreariest of days seem less daunting. Liquid mercury served as inspiration for the structure.
As Kapoor explains on his website (alongside sketches of the piece), “Cloud Gate draws in the sky and the surrounding buildings. In a vertical city, this is a horizontal object. Seamless form confuses scale.”
Cloud Gate is 33 feet tall at its highest point, 42 feet wide, and 66 feet long. It also weighs much, much more than a cloud at 110 tons — that’s about 99,790,000 kidney beans, in case you’re wondering.
So where did the naming go wrong?
Kapoor doesn’t name his pieces until they’re complete. But, before present-day Cloud Gate was finished, renderings were released to the public, Choose Chicago explains. Since the installation was unnamed at the time, Chicagoans named it themselves: The Bean.
As you can guess, one name became more commonplace than the other. Google search data dating back to 2004 shows “The Bean” is vastly more searched than “Cloud Gate.”
Despite the adoration Chicagoans and visitors to the city may have for The Bean, Kapoor wasn’t immediately warm to the idea. He notably called the name “completely stupid,” even noting he would “just as happily do without a title.”
That has changed, though. In a 2017 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, when he visited his piece for the first time since its dedication in 2006, Kapoor said, “It’s great for [Cloud Gate] to have a colloquial name, its own lingo.”
“I call it ‘The Bean,’ too,” he added.
You can see more of Kapoor’s work at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys; the base of a New York luxury residential tower; and more.
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