Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lucas Museum: Not Dead Yet?

Buried deep in the Sunday Trib, in the  business section, is a Front Page story from Melissa Harris

The proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which has practiced a bunkered omertà for the past nine months as controversy swirls all around it, may be stirring.  Harris reports that architect Ma Yansong "remains at work on more detailed drawings, which may include meaningful revisions . . . " 

For that sentence to be anything more than an empty PR holding action, what's needed now is not, as Harris proposes, a call from George Lucas to Mike Madigan.  That kind of backroom, insider horse trading is what got the museum in trouble in the first place.  What's needed is transparency and public engagement. 

When a job is at risk, architects can make coherent revisions to their concepts and renderings overnight.  After a nine-month disappearing act, the "remains at work" statement fed to Harris sounds less like a world-class architect than a high school student buying time to finish an overdue term paper.   While Friends of the Parks, Blair Kamin, and various other opponents hell-bent on running Lucas's project out of town remain formidable opponents, at this point, the Lucas Museum remains its own worse enemy.
Above is a photograph of the parking lot museum these opponents are battling to protect.  I hope to be writing an update on that effort - and its implications for Chicago, its lakefront, and its role in world architecture - soon.  For now, since little has changed from last July other than the overheating of the rhetoric, my original post provides a thorough overview of the potential, pitfalls and controversies of bringing the Lucas Museum to Chicago.

The Heresy: Why Chicago Should Welcome the George Lucas Museum

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mie's New Friends: Ju Ming sculpture lands at IBM Plaza

click images for larger view
No wonder those businessmen look a bit tired.  It's taken the better part of two years for them to get to their destination.
It was in July of 2013 that the Langham Hotel Chicago, owners of the sculpture, opened in Mies van der Rohe's last skyscraper, the iconic IBM Building (now officially renamed AMA Plaza.)  And it's been 15 months since the Commission on Chicago Landmarks reversed its initial decision to ban the metallic travelers for being too close to the building.  The move followed an agreement to move the sculpture from its original position beneath the Landham's gilded canopy on Wabash to a spot on the adjacent riverfront plaza.
The pedestal for the work by Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming was installed last December, but stood empty as late as last Saturday, when it was used as a stepping stone for photographers snapping shots of the annual St. Patrick's Day dyeing of the Chicago River green.
Then, sometime this past week, without fanfare, the travelers took up their station.  As with other of the sculptor's works, visitors are already enjoying sharing space with the frozen figures.
Ju Ming, born in 1938 and trained as a woodcarver, has gone on to an international career creating works in a wide variety of materials.  In 1999, he spent most of his life savings to create the Juming Museum near Taipei to showcase both his own work and that of other contemporary masters.  It is Taiwan's largest sculpture garden.  His subjects range from generic everymen, women and children, to paratroopers and even Albert Einstein.
If the businessmen had been placed under the hotel's canopy, they would have looked like they were waiting for their rides, cousins to J. Seward Johnson's Allow Me hailing a cab outside the Four Seasons on East Delaware.  Standing isolated on the plaza, however, they begin to look a bit dazed and confused, 1960's Man-Men-era executives teleported in an instant from an unknown place to a place unknown.

Read More about Mies van Der Rohe's IBM Building and the Langham Hotel Chicago: