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Artist Yaacov Agam’s sculpture removed from prominent Michigan Avenue corner

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The 1980s-era piece has been placed in storage and awaits an unknown fate

“Communication X9” photographed in 2013
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A 43-foot-tall postmodern sculpture by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam has been removed from its longtime home at the busy corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, across from Millennium Park. Titled “Communication X9,” the column-like piece features a prismatic, “kinetic” style that changes color and appearance as observers walk by.

The installation resided outside Chicago’s Crain Communications Building—an office tower famous for its slanted diamond-shaped crown—since its dedication in 1983. The sculpture was removed once before, between 2005 and 2008, for a controversial restoration. Agam spoke out against the overhaul, claiming that the outcome was not faithful to his original vision.

The artwork’s recent removal was first reported by Crain’s on Thursday. According to building manager CBRE Midwest, the move was undertaken as a result of the 35-year-old piece not harmonizing with a fresh batch of upgrades planned for the 1980s-era office tower.

“The sculpture, ‘Communication X9,’ was designed to complement the architecture of 150 N. Michigan Avenue as it appeared in 1983,” a representative of CBRE told Crain’s via an emailed statement. “However, the building is undergoing a significant renovation project that will change the character of the building in a way that is no longer compatible with the sculpture.

“We are taking great care to properly remove and store the sculpture with the hope that it can one day be enjoyed again in a setting that is in keeping with the spirit of the piece. While ownership may sell the piece, they also are entertaining the idea of donating it if they are able to identify an appropriate recipient.”

150 N. Michigan Avenue.
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Although City Hall continues to tout its ongoing commitment to public art through many initiatives, the questionable fate of “Communication X9” is yet another example of notable pieces disappearing from Chicago’s urban fabric, notes Architects Newspaper. The publication points to the removal of Alexander Calder’s “Universe” sculpture from the lobby of the Willis Tower and the recent destruction of one of Hebru Brantley’s early “Flyboy” murals by city graffiti busters in Wicker Park as particularly egregious examples.

The city’s 20th century public sculptures were even included in Preservation Chicago’s 2017 annual list of most endangered structures. In addition to the aforementioned Calder, the report highlighted a number of at-risk pieces including Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast” in front of the threatened Thompson Center and Marc Chagall’s “Four Seasons” mosaic at Chase Tower plaza—a space currently in the midst of a major renovation.