Each time we walked through Grant Park to visit Chicago’s Museum Campus — the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum — we walked by a large, slightly weird, slightly creepy grouping of giant legs. The huge sculpture gracing the park grabbed our attention enough to walk over and check it out for ourselves.
The sculpture is named Agora and visitors are meant to walk through the sculptures and contemplate the work.
Designed by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz, whose work was notable for her large, headless human figures, arranged in crowds in open spaces, Agora is made up of 106 larger-than-life human shapes without heads and arms. The figures appear to be milling about in a crowd — some face each other, while others are turned away from the crowd.
Agora derives its name from the Greek word for meeting place. The figures measure nine feet tall and weigh around 1,800 pounds. Each figure is made from a hollow, seamless piece of iron that has been allowed to rust, creating a reddish appearance and a bark-like texture.
The sculpture relates to bustling, high-paced Michigan Avenue, as the figures are stationary but are posed in countless directions, symbolizing the idea of going everywhere and nowhere at once.
About Artist Magdalena Abakanowicz
Internationally renowned artist Magdalena Abakanowicz donated the sculptural group along with the Polish Ministry of Culture, a Polish cultural foundation, and other private donors.
Born into an aristocratic family just outside of Warsaw, Abakanowicz was deeply affected by World War II and the forty-five years of Soviet domination that followed. In her journals, she writes that she has lived “—in times which were extraordinary by their various forms of collective hate and collective adulation. Marches and parades worshiped leaders, great and good, who soon turned out to be mass murderers. I was obsessed by the image of the crowd… I suspected that under the human skull, instincts and emotions overpower the intellect without us being aware of it.”
The sculptor began creating large headless figures in the 1970s. Initially working in burlap and resin, she went on to use bronze, steel, and iron. Although Abakanowicz has frequently exhibited in museums and public spaces throughout the world, Agora is her largest permanent installation.
Know Before You Go
- Agora, a giant “legs” sculpture, is located in Grant Park on the corner of South Michigan Avenue and East Roosevelt Drive at 1135 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605.
- The figures were made in a foundry near Poznań between 2004 and 2006. In 2006, the Chicago Park District brought the work to Chicago as a permanent loan from the Polish Ministry of Culture. Private donors, including actor Robin Williams, contributed over $700,000 to bring the work to Chicago.
- Across the street is Burger Bar Chicago (1150 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605). We ate dinner here on July 4th and our burgers, fries, beers, and desserts were AMAZING. We highly recommend you stop in if you’re looking for a delicious, casual meal and great service.