International artist hopes to turn heads with 9-story Mag Mile mural

on Jan9

9 January 2019 | 6:58 pm

The Magnificent Mile now has a mural to match the grandness of its name.

A new massive nine-story mural was completed late last month at 663 N. Michigan Ave. The creation was designed by international artist Ignasi Monreal, who previously worked on similar “art walls” for Gucci in New York, Hong Kong and other cities abroad. This one, however, wasn’t commissioned by the Italian luxury brand.

“The owner of the building approached me and asked me to design something for it,” Monreal said. “And then they gave me creative freedom.”

And Monreal took it. The 27-year-old artist said he drew inspiration from the idea of juxtaposing the concrete spanning the sidewalks below with a Baroque-saturated image that incorporated ornate gold elements. The mural features depictions of people climbing a ladder to enter a natural landscape — one featuring deer atop waterfalls, pink clouds and verdant greenery.

Monreal’s previous “vivid pieces” for retail brands made commissioning his work appealing to the building’s owner Meyer Bergman, said Jill Elia, the real estate investment management company’s head of asset management.

While the artwork itself represents an appreciation for nature’s beauty to Monreal, he said what’s more important to him is that passersby find their own meanings. The interpretation is “a bit up to anybody that sees it,” he said.

Though it blends surrealism and fantasy as Monreal is known for in his work abroad, the Magnificent Mile mural is his first Chicago-based creation. The “epic” city has a “special significance” for him, he said, after growing up watching American media and observing the city from afar.

The mural — which will be up for at least six months — was painted over the span of a few weeks by a group of other artists. Bringing greater social media attention to the tourist-heavy strip was a large motivation in its creation, Elia said.

“This location is the best intersection on the Magnificent Mile,” she added, “and our hope is for the mural to significantly impact the landscape of Chicago’s retail mecca.”

And with the planned opening of a 43,000-foot, four-story Starbucks — the world’s largest — across the street at 646 N. Michigan Ave. later this year, foot traffic is only expected to rise in the area.

The Magnificent Mile Association did not return requests for comment.

Though he’s abroad preparing for his first exhibition in Europe, Monreal didn’t hesitate when asked about bringing more of his designs to the Chicago area.

“I hope so,” he said. “Chicago’s a great city, and I’d love to come back.”

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