If You Wannabean My Selfie

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If You Wannabean My Selfie

Rose Gabler

 The selfie game is strong in Chicago, Illinois via internationally renowned sculptor, Anish Kapoor’s piece The Cloud Gate or more commonly known as The Bean. Recently, on March 28, 2018, a new player emerged in the Kapoor portrait battle as a new sculpture has been unveiled at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas called Cloud Column. There are many questions raised as to why here, why now and which one is better, however, in the words of the “The Chainsmokers” I believe the most relevant questions is: but first, can I take a selfie?

For years people have traveled from around the world to the bright, bustling city of Chicago and have taken the time to visit Millennium Park to take a selfie in the presence of this world- renowned, vegetable-shaped, distorted, reflection. Originally created to encourage imagination from a new perspective while emphasizing the unique and powerful skyline of one of the most well-known cities in America, Cloud Gate has continued to engage these national and international visitors since it’s installation in 2006. However, the vanity of its viewers and its  blob-like shape has demoted it’s status from Cloud-like, something beautiful and ethereal, to bean-like, something common and canned. This commonality and appropriation by it’s audience has, of course, promoted the tourism and exploration of Chicago and has proved to be a very powerful source of entertainment and exposure globally. This exposure and publicity seems to have been a key influence in the inclusion of a new Kapoor sculpture within the city confines of Houston, Texas, which is quickly gaining popularity for visitors from around the world.

Reflecting on this new sculpture and the importance of it’s location, timing and shape, I cannot help but ask myself why a new “bean?” I also cannot help but answer with because according to “Chicago Curbed,” The Bean is the 8th most photographed location in the city of Chicago, following after places like Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which thousands of travelers pass through daily, some without visiting the actual city, or Wrigley Field which is one of America’s most historic baseball fields, which people visit repeatedly during one season. 

In relation to the new Texan-Kapoor this “Wannabean,” which is strikingly similar, due to the reflective, chrome metal used to create both, the Cloud Column provides not only a new experience for Kapoor fans or a free moment of art education to visitors but, you guessed it, a new selfie mirror as well. Therefore, this understanding would lead me to believe that Houston wants to up it’s insta-game by providing a proven and established experience, such as The Bean in Chicago, to motivate anyone with a smart phone to come to their city and participate in a new opportunity for selfie lovers to build up their social status. 

As no stranger to the “Bean-fie” as I have taken many pictures of this sculpture and it is one of my first locations to take friends who are visiting because of it’s fame and notoriety. I also understand the importance and need for emerging cities to provide multiple opportunities for engagement and the cruciality of this being available in social media and seen internationally online. I can only hope that the rise of more chrome Kapoors isn’t solely based on the popularity of vanity and the fact that social ego or insta-fame will rise alongside it’s erection, but that this new sculpture I will deem as “The Cucumber” will truly provide a new aesthetic experience to art appreciators and it’s publicity will continue to inspire Kapoor’s everyday viewers to experience more than their reflection and add a sense of wonder and imagination to their minds.

 Image from Buzz Magazine. Anish Kapoor "Cloud Column" in Houston Texas, 2018. 

Image from Buzz Magazine. Anish Kapoor "Cloud Column" in Houston Texas, 2018.