Crain’s Chicago Business, taking note of the disappearance of Communication X9, a tall, multicolored sentinel of a sculpture that stood in front of the building at 150 N. Michigan that houses its office, reports that the family of the artist, Yaacov Agam, a 90-year-old Israeli living in Paris, is upset about it.
Building management told Crain’s that the prominently located office building (across the street from the Cultural Center and Millennium Park), notable for its diagonally sliced diamond-shaped top, is going to look different after a renovation. Agam’s bright, kinetic sculpture, commissioned for that very spot and in place since the building opened in 1984, won’t suit it anymore, they said. It will likely be sold or donated.
That reminded me that when I spoke with Agam for a Reader story in 2007, he said that the piece, which was meant to give the illusion of shifting as you walked past it, was already gone. He said it had been lost to a restoration that he claimed botched the colors and turned it into an inferior reproduction of his work. “They left my signature on it, but this is not an Agam,” he said then.
So there it stood for the last decade: allegedly damaged, possibly devalued, definitely disowned, but still a boldly colorful presence on that busy corner and a landmark for the thousands of pedestrians who passed it daily. I wondered, the last time I saw it, why it was cordoned off with the familiar yellow construction-or-crime-scene tape; it didn’t occur to me that it might be coming down. Like the whitewashing of Bill Walker’s All of Mankind mural a few years ago, its disappearance is a reminder that the public doesn’t own or control the fate of some of the city’s most public art.