Extensive Art Collection Enhances The Experience Of Visiting Chicago’s McCormick Place
More than 100 artworks are featured throughout the convention center and campus
Attendees at the RSNA annual meeting may not know that they can view one of the largest public art collections without ever leaving the convention center.
McCormick Place may be best known as the largest convention center in North America with 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls and more than 170 meeting rooms. Visitors may not know that the sprawling campus on Chicago’s lakefront also provides access to a large and diverse public art collection.
More than 100 pieces from Chicago and around the world decorate McCormick Place and help engage and educate visitors, according to Nicol Chervenak, director of planning and program management for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates the convention center.
“Art was built into McCormick Place, literally,” said Chervenak. When the South and West buildings were built (25 and 15 years ago, respectively), a curator helped select each piece with a global audience in mind. “People come here from all over the world so we want to represent the city of Chicago and showcase what a great arts and culture city this is,” she said.
Each Hall Showcases Different Styles of Art
The South Hall is home to more than 70 contemporary works of art from around the world. Even though the creators are diverse, often their subject is local, such as the Chicago Skyline tapestry by Swedish-born artist Helena Hernmarck found on the first floor.
Because of the size of the facility, the art can also be larger than life. For example, visitors won’t be able to miss the Bots, two large robotic sculpture installations added outside the Marriott Marquis hotel in 2018. Each more than 23 feet tall, the Bots, designed by David Weeks Studio, serve as a wayfinding device for conference attendees to find their way or meet up with fellow convention goers.
Other gigantic installations help add to the sense of place, such as “Homeland,” an oil painting on linen by Bo Bartlett on the fourth floor of the South Hall that measures 103 inches by 204 inches, or the 100-foot mural “Twilight Dream” along the West Hall concourse.
“We love to put art in places where it enhances the architecture of the building and the viewer thinks of it as part of the building,” Chervenak said.
Chervenak said her favorite piece is the Chitown Totem by Richard Hunt on the fifth floor of the South Hall. Made of welded bronze and stainless steel, the piece is by one of the 20th century’s most important African American sculptors who also calls Chicago home.
“It’s just amazing to look out toward the lake and have the experience of looking at art from Richard Hunt all at the same time,” she said.
The West Hall features 30 artists from Chicago and Illinois who created 50 original works of art specifically for McCormick Place.
On the first floor, Preston Jackson’s stainless steel and cast bronze art is a tribute to Bronzeville, a historic African American Chicago neighborhood. Also on the first floor, Susanne Doremus’ “Circle Interchange” shows Chicago from the sky including the notorious traffic circle that exemplifies the city’s place as the hub of the nation.
Other pieces of art in the West Hall show Chicago’s great skyscrapers, lake views, and people, such as Marc Hauser’s “Chicago’s Heroes” photography collection on the third floor.
Visitors can learn more about the art on display through a brochure available on the McCormick Place website, but the most fun way to get to know the McCormick Place art collection is to walk around
Chervenak’s recommendation? “Get lost and look at some art,” she said.
Public art can help enhance the experience of being at a conference when you are already feeling inspired and ready to learn.
“Art takes the great architecture of the campus to another level. It engages you; it educates you,” Chervenak said. “It makes our campus not just a big convention center, but an enriching cultural space.”
For More Information
Access a complete guide to the McCormick Place art collection at mccormickplace.com/facility-overview/art-collection.