Alexander Calder's Flamingo, typically referred to simply as “The Flamingo,” is a renowned public art installation nestled amid the urban landscape of Chicago, Illinois. Commissioned by the United States General Services Administration and unveiled in 1974, this monumental structure stands as a testimony to Calder's innovative and abstract sculptural style.
Born from Calder's inventive mind, the Flamingo is a 53-foot tall freestanding sculpture, a prime example of his stationary abstract sculptures, also known as “stabiles.” The Flamingo was Calder's response to the challenge of designing a work of art that could hold its own amidst the towering skyscrapers of Chicago's Federal Plaza, including Mies van der Rohe's Kluczynski Federal Building.
Crafted from steel and ingeniously engineered to withstand Chicago's infamous winds, the Flamingo exhibits a striking contrast of color and form. Its vivid, flaming red color offsets the surrounding monochrome cityscape, evoking its namesake bird amid a sea of high-rise pigeons. Its curvilinear shape is a sharp contrast to the rectilinear constructs around it, bringing an infusion of organic dynamism to the plaza.
One of the key features of Calder's Flamingo is its interactivity. Unlike many monumental sculptures that are to be admired from a distance, the Flamingo welcomes visitors to traverse the space it occupies. Its arches are purposefully designed to let pedestrians walk under and around it, offering a uniquely personal engagement with the sculpture. The perception of the sculpture shifts as you move, creating a fluid, living interaction that changes with every step.
Why visit Calder's Flamingo?
Historic significance. Calder's Flamingo is an integral part of Chicago's cultural heritage and a beacon of modernist public art.
Architectural marvel. The Flamingo's size, coupled with its design and engineering ingenuity, make it an awe-inspiring sight and a testament to Calder's talent.
A splash of color. Its vibrant red hue makes the Flamingo a joyful splash of color amidst the steel and glass, a photographer's delight, and a visual treat for every visitor.
Interactive engagement. The sculpture encourages physical interaction, inviting you to engage with the artwork up close, a feature that sets it apart from other public art installations.
A vibrant cultural space. With its position in the Federal Plaza, the Flamingo is often surrounded by bustling activities, including performances, gatherings, and local food vendors, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. The plaza is home to the city’s official farmer market, which takes place on Tuesdays.
Proximity to other attractions. Due to the sculpture’s location in downtown Chicago, a visit to Calder's Flamingo can be conveniently combined with other major city attractions, such as the Willis Tower and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Calder's Flamingo is more than just a sculpture; it's a symbol of Chicago's enduring commitment to public art and culture. It invites each visitor to become a part of its history and to leave with a deeper appreciation for the role of art in our cities and our lives.
Best places to visit near Calder's Flamingo
Grant Park. As Chicago's "front yard," Grant Park offers ample green space, walking paths, and attractions like Buckingham Fountain. It's a great spot for picnics, outdoor activities, or simply enjoying the skyline views.
Millennium Park. Located just a short walk from Calder’s Flamingo, this park is a must-visit attraction with stunning architecture, art installations, beautiful gardens, and the iconic Cloud Gate (also known as "The Bean").
Art Institute of Chicago. Situated adjacent to Millennium Park, the Art Institute is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. It houses an extensive collection of artworks spanning various periods and cultures.
Maggie Daley Park. Situated next to Millennium Park, it features a range of recreational activities, including a skating ribbon, climbing walls, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
Navy Pier. Located along Lake Michigan, Navy Pier is a popular tourist destination offering a variety of entertainment options, including rides, boat tours, restaurants, shops, and seasonal fireworks.
Field Museum. Not far from Calder's Flamingo, the Field Museum is a renowned natural history museum. It houses extensive collections of artifacts, fossils, and exhibits that showcase the Earth's biodiversity and human history.
Adler Planetarium. Situated on the Museum Campus, the planetarium is a fascinating place to explore the wonders of space. It features engaging exhibitions, immersive shows in the dome theater, and telescopes for stargazing.
Shedd Aquarium. Also part of the Museum Campus, the aquarium is home to thousands of marine animals from around the world. You can enjoy interactive exhibits and animal presentations and even participate in animal encounters.
Chicago Riverwalk. Take a leisurely stroll along the Chicago Riverwalk, which offers scenic views of the river, unique art installations, outdoor dining options, and occasional live performances.
Chicago Architecture River Cruise. Embark on a scenic boat tour along the Chicago River to admire the city's remarkable architecture. These cruises offer insightful commentary on the city's buildings and their historical significance.
How much does the Flamingo weigh?
Despite its seemingly delicate structure, the Flamingo weighs an impressive 50 tons. Its design gives the impression of lightness and movement in contrast to its actual weight and stability.
What are the most interesting and unique facts about Calder's Flamingo?
The sculpture was unveiled on October 25, 1974, at the same time that Calder's Universe mobile was unveiled at the Willis Tower. The day was proclaimed "Alexander Calder Day" and even featured a circus parade.
The specific red color of the Flamingo is often referred to as "Calder red." This particular hue was used frequently by Calder in his works, and it's so synonymous with his style that paint companies have even offered "Calder Red" as a color option.
Calder's Flamingo was a pioneer in the field of public art, demonstrating that abstract, modern art could be appreciated and understood by the general public and could enliven public spaces in urban environments. It helped set the stage for other large-scale public art projects in cities around the world.