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(Above) Rendering by Obscura Digital of what Merchandise Mart would look like with artwork projected onto it from across the Chicago River. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

25-Feb-18 – Projected from the Chicago Riverwalk onto nearly three acres of Merchandise Mart’s south side, it would be the largest permanent lighting installation in the world – and paid for by private sources.

Art on theMart will project an evolving collection of artwork at night without branding, commercial content, or other messages. Artists in Chicago and around the world would submit their work to an advisory council for consideration. Artwork would also come from galleries and museums in Chicago.

“To our knowledge, this art installation is unprecedented,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The Riverwalk, he says, “offers a majestic setting for this giant new public artwork.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman
(Above) Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at a news conference on Sunday afternoon on the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells and Franklin Streets. Behind him are Mark Kelly, commissioner of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago artist Tyrue “Slang” Jones, Myron Maurer, chief operating officer of Merchandise Mart, and David Reynolds, commissioner of Department of Fleet & Facility Management. Merchandise Mart in distance. Photo by Steven Dahlman.

Kelly says the Chicago City Council will be asked to approve a 30-year agreement with Merchandise Mart. A proposed ordinance will be introduced on Wednesday. The project, he says, would be ready this fall.

The reported cost of $8 million will be paid for by Vornado Realty Trust, owner of Merchandise Mart – officially renamed theMART – but it will be run by a second advisory council.

The plan was announced on March 12, 2017, though the city has been looking into elaborate lighting along the riverfront since 2014.

“We started this conversation...about 18 months ago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “and the idea was to take what we were doing on the Riverwalk on the south bank and make...the north bank come alive.”

The city is working with Obscura Digital, a San Francisco-based creative studio that has projected art onto Sydney Opera House, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Empire State Building. Along with the Chicago architecture firm Valerio Dewalt Train, they have studied how to do the same with Merchandise Mart.

(Right) Art would be projected from a platform overlooking the Riverwalk from Wacker Drive. Image obtained from Obscura Digital. Obscura Digital

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