Sunday, August 05, 2012

13 years later, Cows on Parade still hanging on

Nine Spotted Lady Bug Cow by Brian Calvin,  still at its original location,climbing up the facade of Hotel Talbott, Delaware near Rush.(click images for larger view)
Blame the Swiss.  In 1998, they got the bright idea of casting cows in fiberglas and letting local artists loose on them.  Chicago shoe magnate Peter Hanig saw the exhibition in Zurich, and with Cultural Affairs Commisar(ess) Lois Weisberg, they hatched (you do know that cows come from eggs, yes? really big eggs.) 1999 Cows on Parade, curated by Nathan Mason, in which no fewer than 306 88-pound hollow bovines were transformed by artists from Herbert Migdoll to Karl Wirsum, Tom Bachtell, Mr. Imagination, Terrence Karpowicz, Barbara Koenen and Ed Paschke, to name just a few.  (Paschke's cow, Vaca Victoria, was actually yanked from view because it incorporated gang symbols.)

Helmut  Jahn created Lines at State and Wacker.  Stanley Tigerman and Dong Huy Kim sliced their Cow(ed) into three parts, Damien Hirst style.

Cows on Parade was so successful, it spawned countless street-side exhibitions worldwide, taking on everything from elephants, to ducks, moose, shoes, eggs, frogs, peanuts, another kind of peanuts, and . . . bananas.
Pete Price Banana - photograph: Stuart Ian Burns, Wikipedia
Our neighbors in Racine have been doing an annual festival since 2002, starting with cats, then dogs, then bears, and in 2005, fish and otters . . .

This year, they've been reduced to trunks.   The situation in Chicago is no better.  For still another year, Michigan Avenue is dotted with ten recycled refrigerators, redesigned by local artists.  This year's exhibition is named "MetamorFridges", and is sponsored by ComEd.  Things have grown increasingly commercial, didactic, and - truth to tell - more than a little tired.  Appropriately, this one looks a bit like a bicycle hearse.
A decade is a long time to do variations on a single idea.  Clearly, some fresh thinking is order, and it's useful to look at some reminders of the giddy fun of the original 1999 Cows on Parade, which can still be found around the city.
Some can be found outdoors, such as the one above, on west Dickens.
Other cows have found inside resting places.  piCowso, by Todd Treleven, Jeff McMahon and Scott Wallace, was originally outside SOM's One Mag Mile on Oak Street.  Now, it's retired to the offices of its donor, HavasChicago.
© Jyoti Srivastava. All rights reserved.
Recently my good friend Jyoti Srivastava discovered another indoor cow.  In 1999, W. la Vaca 1999 #2, by Virginio Ferrari could be found at State and Wacker.  Today's it's in the atrium of 20 North Michigan. You can find more surviving cows on Jyoti's excellent blog, Public Art in Chicago, here.

How many more cows still live?  If you know of any, let us know, and we'll add them to our Put Out to Pasture catalog.
Actually, the Chicago Loop Alliance, with its Pop-Up Art galleries and projects like this year's Color Jam have brought a lot of creativity to public art in Chicago, as has the annual BIGart installation at Navy Pier, and The Chicago Sculpture Exhibit.

Are recycled refrigerators God's way of telling us there's a drop-dead date on whimsy?  What new ideas are waiting to be discovered for combining tourism and public art?  Fiberglas figures of  Convicted Aldermen on ParadeGiant grapefruit on the marchSurrealism on State?  No?  Well, what have you got?  Pass along your suggestions and we'll post them here.


Jyoti said...

Thank You Lynn, for this excellent post!!! So many wonderful links. The more I read about and see images of this "Cows on parade", I love it even more... Hopefully, we will discover some more of these cows in the town.


Pete said...

Sam Zell had (has?) a Harley Davidson-decorated cow in the lobby of his private floor at Two North Riverside Plaza. I used to work for one of his companies, and happened to see the cow on one of the rare occasions that the elevator opened on his floor. No photo, unforunately.

Anonymous said...

Hostelling International-Chicago has one of the original Swiss cows.

esther said...

I think there is an Irish-themed one in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel and Towers on South Michigan Avenue, outside the now shuttered Kitty O'Shea's bar.

Jyoti said...

This is not my post. But thanks to everyone who commented. I see location of many more cows. That's very interesting!!!

Zol87 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zol87 said...

*There is one near 18th/Michigan
*One or Two at the CTA HQ (possibly Repainted)
*One at the Lincoln Park Zoo Farm
One at Eli's Cheesecake Factory

Lynn Becker said...

Zol87 - these are fantastic - thank you!

Maximus Movies Review said...

Are they still around in Chicago today?

SallysF said...

Mr Imagination (the late Gregory Warmack) had the best cow, in my humble opinion. I found this article because I was wondering where she is now.

Enjoyed reading about Cows on Parade.