We often take art in public places for granted. Cities around the country take a percent of huge construction projects and spend it on art. In fact, about 25 states currently have these programs, commissioning large scale works to make soulless building plazas into promenades of sculptures and wall pieces.
But in the late 80s the notion that art should be where people congregate was astounding. But that’s exactly what David Bermant wanted to do. Fill shopping centers not only with stores but with art. More specifically, edgy sculptures.
Bermant made his fortune as a developer of shopping centers. Then in the 1980s, he welded his passion for art to his commitment to art in public places — his shopping centers. He placed more than 100 works of art in shopping centers and transportation hubs.
Among the shopping centers he owned was Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, Illinois. He started with a highly controversial piece by Nancy Rubins called Big Bil-Bored. The three-story, 60-ton sculpture was composed of hundreds of pieces of castoff materials including appliances and car wheels.
But that was just the start. In 1989, Dustin Shuler (1948-2010) of Los Angeles created Spindle, a tower of 9 automobiles impaled on a huge spike. Drum Yard by Bill and Mary Buchen was is a piece of Sonic Architecture for playing music – and it was fun. Fountains, bells, a dissected car mounted on a wall made a trip to Cermak more than a shopping experience, it became part playground and part art gallery.
But at the time the art wasn’t bronze sculptures. It was far more vulnerable to the effects of wind, ice, and people’s interactions.
Today the sculptures have disappeared from Cermak. Bil-Bored was torn down in 1993. Spindle stood for 20 years but in 2008, despite much opposition, it was taken down to make room for a drugstore. It is rumored that at least two of the cars still exist… somewhere and might make an appearance in the future, but confirmation of that was not possible.
But the rest haven’t all totally gone.
Some of these famous works still exist. That’s the good news.
The bad news?
Bermant died in 2000, and Cermak is currently owned by Concordia Realty. According to their spokesperson the art work that was salvageable is currently in storage. Unfortunately, most of it is in need of restoration.
Will it ever make an appearance? “Ownership at this time does not have the funds to restore it and build the cases, etc. to put it back on display.”
Perhaps that will change someday.