After one month at the spa, the Art Institute of Chicago’s beloved bronze lions have returned to their plinths at the front entrance of the museum. Staff members in hardhats watched as the harnessed south lion was the first to be hoisted back onto its pedestal, with the north lion following close behind.
Similar to when the lions were removed in mid-June, the flatbed trucks and moving cranes attracted quite a crowd. Onlookers were also offered a rare glimpse at the two time capsules guarded by the lions. The two capsules were returned inside their respective plinths, one buried package dates back to 2001, while the other is said to be “much older”. The bronze statues were sculpted for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition by self-taught artist and America’s first professional animalier Edward Kemeys; they were installed outside their permanent home in 1894.
It was clear the absence of the statues, these past few weeks, was profoundly felt by the local community. Chicago native Howard von Nichols told the Chicago Sun Times that the building looked “naked” without the pair. But to the lions’ credit, they made sure to keep their fans updated on their spa hiatus happenings with humorous updates from their Twitter account.
Behind-the-scenes peek at what’s happening at the spa. Lions are in the blowout phase. Manes getting groomed and primed. pic.twitter.com/3HJZWhAfIk
— Art Institute Lions (@ChicagoLions) July 12, 2022
In the week leading up to the felines’ return, the Chicago Institute shared images of the lions undergoing treatment at the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio’s (CSOS) warehouse in Forest Park. The bathing and grooming session included a steam, laser cleaning, and a wax coating. With some of the built-up oxidation removed, the hue of the coats and manes have darkened from a bright teal to a richer shade of green.
The lions get a deep cleaning!
Thanks to Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio, Inc. (CSOS) for their great work.
See the lions cleaner (and greener) than ever next week when they’re back in front of the Art Institute. pic.twitter.com/aAg3igCp9H
— The Art Institute of Chicago (@artinstitutechi) July 15, 2022
The big cat duo is back and more vibrant and lustrous than ever, but not everyone was pleased with the lions’ new look. The lions were only home for a few hours before getting into a tiff on Twitter with SUE the T. rex from the nearby Field Museum. Avid followers were quick to defend the lions’ refreshed green coat.
“Thanks for the welcome back, our Jurassic friend. We would never give up our gorgeous green — we were born with it. Beauty is definitely on the inside and we return filled with Chicago hot dogs (ironic getting called “hollow” by a fossilized skeleton),” wrote the lions.
Thanks for the welcome back, our Jurassic friend. We would never give up our gorgeous green — we were born with it. Beauty is definitely on the inside and we return filled with Chicago hot dogs (ironic getting called “hollow” by a fossilized skeleton). https://t.co/qyyzByGzl7
— Art Institute Lions (@ChicagoLions) July 19, 2022
While the factual merits of the bronze cats’ response cannot be confirmed (especially the part about their bodies’ being filled with Chicago hot dogs), it was perhaps a preview in celebration of National Hot Dog Day, July 20.
Today is National Hot Dog Day. Chicago-style is the best hot dog on the planet. It’s lunchtime. You know what to do. pic.twitter.com/Pr9JMbiRjP
— Art Institute Lions (@ChicagoLions) July 20, 2022