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New York’s Mini-Bean

February 13, 2023
A large public sculpture on a New York City sidewalk consisting of polished stainless steel panels welded together to create a rounded, smooth surface reflecting and distorting the surrounding area.

The Mini-Bean by Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor’s sculpture Cloud Gate, popularly known as The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park, was at first despised but has since become one of the Windy City’s most iconic landmarks. And now Manhattan is getting a Bean of its own. On January 31st, another Kapoor sculpture similar to the Bean was unveiled outside 56 Leonard Street in Manhattan. The building is popularly known as the Jenga Tower, where Kapoor owns a $13.5 million apartment. The work does not yet have a title, so some have called it the Mini-Bean. The Mini-Bean seems to interact interestingly with its environment: it almost seems like a glob of mercury slightly squished by the second-floor cantilever of the building. While that certainly does make it distinct from its big brother in Chicago, some have lamented that the sculpture’s placement so close to the building means people won’t be able to view it in the round.

Kapoor meant to unveil the work much sooner, but Covid travel restrictions made it impossible for the British installation team to continue working. This left the work unfinished in the open air for several years, leading some to refer to the work as the Half-Bean. While the Chicago sculpture is made from about one hundred thirty stainless steel panels welded together over a single support structure, the Mini-Bean is much smaller, made of only thirty-eight panels. But smaller in size does not mean construction wasn’t cheap. Due to the aforementioned construction delays and structural problems last summer, the Mini-Bean likely cost about $8 million and possibly as much as $10 million.

Like the Chicago Bean, this New York Mini-Bean is receiving its fair share of criticism from the get-go. Alex Greenberger of ArtNews called this new Bean “an eyesore that no one asked for” and “a big, shiny, reflective object that feels like the final boss of ugly public art in New York”. He points out that while the Chicago Bean is made of reflective panels seamlessly welded together to create the appearance of a single whole, the Mini-Bean appears rather slapdash in its construction, with the panels’ edges clearly visible up close. Furthermore, the sculpture’s material is not as weather-resistant as the larger Chicago sculpture. Even within the first few days after its completion, water staining is starting to become an issue. Whether or not Kapoor will address these defects in the future is uncertain.