On August 15, 1967, more than 50,000 Chicagoans gathered to witness the unveiling of what would quickly become an iconic landmark. “With applause, startled exclamations, and incredulous smiles, Chicago received its long-awaited gift yesterday from the most celebrated of living artists,” wrote Edward Barry in the Chicago Tribune. “Shortly after noon, Mayor Daley pulled the cord which controlled the coverings of Pablo Picasso’s untitled steel sculpture in the Civic Center Plaza. The sheets billowed to the ground. There, looming against the sky and against the glass and steel of the Civic Center,* was a huge, rust-colored object calculated to baffle the mind and stir the imagination.”
Architect William E. Hartmann served as master of ceremonies and read a telegram from President Lyndon B. Johnson: “Your new Civic Center Plaza with its unique and monumental sculpture by one of the acknowledged geniuses of modern art is a fitting addition to a city famous for its creative vitality. Chicago, which gave the world its first skyscraper and America some of our greatest artists and poets, has long recognized that art, beauty, and open space are essential. . . . You have demonstrated once again that Chicago is a city second to none.”
The Englewood Neighborhood Corps Youth Choir led the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, representatives of multiple faiths pronounced invocations, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks read a poem written especially for the occasion, and Seiji Ozawa led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Gershwin’s An American in Paris along with Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and excerpts from the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
*The building was renamed Richard J. Daley Center on December 27, 1976, seven days after the mayor’s death.
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