5 Things You May Not Know About the Chicago ‘Bean’

You know that giant, shiny, legume-like structure that resides in the heart of Chicago? Where tourists (and Okay, Chicagoans, too) flock to take their picture in front or reflected off of? Well, I consider myself a Chicagoan, but apparently, there are a few things I didn’t know about this unique, lakefront fixture.


1. It’s NOT supposed to be a giant bean… and thank God.

Maybe I’m some oblivious trollop ignorantly wandering this fine city, but I had no idea what it actually was until recently. Apparently, the official name of this structure is called Cloud Gate, and it was designed by the Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It was inspired by the appearance of liquid mercury, and it gets its name from the 12 foot arch in its middle. The arch is supposed give it a gate-like appearance while it reflects the clouds and Chicago skyline. But to me, and likely many others, it’s simply what makes it look like the bean we all know and love. (And seriously, some sort of near-by name card would help, Chicago).

Chicago's Cloud Gate, or as it's more affectionately known, 'The Bean'

Chicago’s Cloud Gate, or as it’s more affectionately known, ‘The Bean’

2. It’s Not Maintenance-Free

While ‘The Bean’ doesn’t need much in the way of food, water or shelter, it does need a good polishing to keep up its lustrous shine. In order to keep the surface shiny enough to give you those memorable vacation photos, a lower portion of ‘The Bean’ is polished not once, but twice a day… by hand. The entire bean itself is then cleaned twice a year with about 40 gallons of liquid detergent. So, I wouldn’t tell those guys they “missed a spot”…

3. It’s Meant to Last 1,000 Years

Good thing people seem to like it, or, at least are amused by it, because it’s here to stay. According to Anish Kapoor’s contract, and likely because of its stainless steel materials and rigorous upkeep, it’s meant to survive at least 1,000 years. And if that’s true, who knows how long it would last if it were canned?!

4. It Has a Belly-Button

Yes, ‘The Bean’ has a navel, or an “omphalos” in Greek, as the arty folks call it. The concave underside of this beast reaches 27 feet off the ground, creating a sort of inner chamber where viewers can see multiple reflections and distortions of themselves as they pass through. And upon even close inspection, you won’t find a trace of lint.

5. It’s Not a Cheap Drunk.

A restaurant called Tavern at the Park, off the corner of Michigan Ave and Randolph St, directly north of Millennium Park, serves a Cloud Gate cocktail. However, it’s not for those strapped for cash. The martini costs $175, and it’s made with Grey Goose La Poire vodka, homemade sour mix, pineapple juice, a splash of champagne and presented on a silver tray with a glass rimmed in edible silver. However, the expense comes not from the ingredients, but the silver Cloud Gate Tiffany’s charm necklace it’s adorned with. While not the best choice for a round, it’s definitely a unique way to commemorate a Chicago visit.


So if you happen to be in the area, I would suggest a trip to ‘The Bean’, or ahem, Cloud Gate. It really is something to behold. But hurry, you only have 1,000 years to see it.

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