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Houston vs. Chicago: The War of the Beans

Nathan Lederman
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A close-up view of the Cloud Column. (Photo: Nathan Lederman)

On Monday, a statue was installed in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, which is already receiving some controversial feedback. As part of the new look for the Glassell School of Art, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Column is meant to highlight Houston’s love of culture and the arts. However, its similarity to Chicago’s Cloud Gate, colloquially known as The Bean, has resulted in increased feuding between the two cities. 

Houston is inching ever closer to overtaking Chicago as America’s third largest city, and the addition of the Cloud Column has only served to raise the stakes. The Chicago Tribune responded to the art installation by publishing an article headlined, “Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture... whatever,” in which Houston was referred to as a “cultural abyss.” The fallout from the Tribune’s article resulted in a sparring match via email between the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray and the Tribune’s Kim Janssen, and extensive bickering between Houstonians and Chicagoans on social media. Despite (or maybe partially because of) the hostility, the buzz surrounding the new statue is sure to draw in crowds. 

CW39’s Lakisha Lemons interviews Buzz intern Nathan Lederman, a senior at The Emery/Weiner School, in front of the Cloud Column. (Photo: Abby Cohan)

On the day that I visited with Abby Cohan, also a senior at Emery interning at The Buzz, it became clear that many Houstonians are interested in checking out our new statue. When I arrived, CW39’s Lakisha Lemons was at the scene interviewing individuals in the area, including myself. See CW39’s take on the feud here (I didn’t make the cut). 

If you are eager to visit Houston’s Cloud Column, there are a few things you should be aware of at the moment. Firstly, there is a lot of construction currently in the area. With the Glassell School of Art undergoing major renovations, it's actually quite difficult to even spot the now-infamous statue. With construction set to wrap up on May 20, it will be a few months before the site is capable of becoming Houston’s next big tourist attraction.

The Cloud Column in its current state, surrounded by extensive construction. (Photo: Nathan Lederman)

Another thing you might want to be prepared for, especially if you’ve visited Chicago’s Cloud Gate, is its smaller stature. Once at the base of the statue the words of a passing pedestrian felt quite apt: “It's smaller than I thought it would be…” Displayed upright, Houston’s statue stands at 32 feet. In comparison, Millennium Park’s famous statue sits at 33 feet high when laid down.

With all that said, Houston’s new bean is still a very impressive sight. As a native Houstonian I can confidently say that Cloud Column’s unique display and location within the Museum District definitely make it worth a visit once the construction is completed. 

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