A street-level work of postmodern art has been quietly removed from the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street in Chicago. Communication X9 is a 43-foot-tall sculpture by Yaacov Agam designed to be in harmony with the architecture of 150 North Michigan. Designed by A. Epstein and Sons International in 1984, the building currently known by its address has historically been known as the Smurfit-Stone Building, and it caught a substantial amount of notoriety in the late 1980s for its prominence in a climactic scene from the 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting. A. Epstein and Sons International was an early pioneer of design-build, and their services included site-specific outdoor art.
According to Crain’s Chicago, the Agam statue was removed by the building’s current management, CBRE Midwest, and was placed in storage in advance of an update to the lobby and gathering spaces. CBRE Midwest has not stated whether it will sell or donate the sculpture, but it does not intend to return the work to the site.
The prismatic obelisk was removed in 2005 and reinstalled three years later after undergoing restoration. Agam flew to Chicago to see the results and found the colors of the restored sculpture to be off from the original.
The removal of Communication X9 comes on the tails of the City of Chicago’s 2017 Year of Public Art celebration. While the initiative gave Chicagoans new murals by Kerry James Marshall on the alley side of the Chicago Cultural Center, and a twelve-foot-tall fiberglass deer by Chicago-based artist Tony Tasset on the Chicago River along with a spiraling Calatrava sculpture, other significant works of embedded art have been removed, including Alexander Calder’s Universe, a longtime fixture of the Willis Tower lobby. Many neighborhood murals have also disappeared this year at the hands of Chicago’s Graffiti Blasters, including a historic mural in Humboldt Park near the 606 trail depicting the Puerto Rican diaspora in Chicago, and Flyboy, an early work in Wicker Park by Chicago street artist Hebru Brantley.