Chicago is a city known for its baseball. After all, we have two teams: the Cubs and the White Sox. So it’s no wonder Chicago is also home to a giant metal baseball bat titled Batcolumn (or Bat Column).
Batcolumn has stood outside the Harold Washington Social Security Administration Building in downtown Chicago since 1977 when it was commissioned by the U. S. General Services Administration’s Art-in-Architecture program.
It is the work of Pop artist Claes Oldenburg who was inspired by the skyline, skyscrapers, steel bridges, and all around architecture of the city. At the time, the big sculpture drew much controversy, with the city being accused of wasting taxpayers money and locals demanding it be torn down. Now, over forty years later, the work is a generally accepted piece of public art, if even noticed by busy city-dwellers at all.
A sign at the knob of the baseball bat says, “Oldenburg selected the baseball bat as an emblem of Chicago’s ambition and vigor. The sculpture’s verticality echoes the city’s dramatic skyline, while its form and scale cleverly allude to more traditional civic monuments, such as obelisks and memorial columns.”
While Batcolumn might not be the world’s largest baseball bat (that honor belongs to the 120 foot baseball bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky), at 101 feet tall it’s still impressively large. And, made of gray Corten steel in a latticework pattern, the giant bat blends right in to the towering skyscrapers that surround it.
Batcolumn is one of many public works by artist Claes Oldenburg. Others include Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis, Plantoir Garden Trowel in Des Moines (2011), Free Stamp in Cleveland (1991), Shuttlecocks in Kansas City (1994), and Houseball in Berlin (1996).
Batcolumn: a Giant Baseball Bat
Address: 600 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60661
Cost: Free to See
Hours: Always Visible