Traffic alert: Car encased in concrete moving to Hyde Park

Procession on Sept. 30 featuring 16-ton sculpture launches yearlong series

Concrete Traffic
A procession centered around Concrete Traffic, a 1957 Cadillac encased in concrete, will kick off series of programming and exhibitions.
Photo by
David Katzive, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Nora Semel
Director of External Relations for UChicago Arts and the Logan CenterUniversity Communications, UChicago Arts

A 16-ton sculpture made out of a 1957 Cadillac De Ville encased in concrete will soon return to its longtime home at the University of Chicago.

On Sept. 30, artist Wolf Vostell’s Concrete Traffic will move through the Chicago streets during a festive procession that will commemorate its storied, 40-plus-year history and will include classic Cadillacs and a cement mixer.

As the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago originally commissioned Concrete Traffic in January 1970, the procession will start at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., at noon on Sept. 30. Festivities will begin on the MCA plaza, where the sculpture will be temporarily ‘parked’ from noon to 1 p.m. A free public discussion will take place with Lynne Warren, MCA curator, and Christine Mehring, chair and professor in Art History at the University of Chicago, who initiated and directed the sculpture’s conservation and return.

The procession then will travel past the corner of Ontario and St. Clair streets, where Concrete Traffic was created and originally ‘parked’ for several months in 1970, on the site of the present-day Arts Club of Chicago. There it will be greeted by a performance inspired by Dick Higgins’ Danger Music Number 17. The procession will then travel south past the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and Midway Studios—the site of Concrete Traffic’s original location at the University—before concluding in the vicinity of the Smart Museum of Art.

UChicago Arts will celebrate the sculpture’s return to public view—and initiate dialogue on the power of public art—with a series of free exhibitions and public programs under the moniker Concrete Happenings, presented at UChicago institutions including the Logan Center, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, Smart Museum throughout the 2016-17 academic year. Concrete Happenings will officially launch with a drive-in featuring the projection of automobile-related films and videos by Vostell within the University’s Campus North Parking Garage on Friday, Oct. 14, starting at 6 p.m.

The University of Chicago has a rich history of embracing challenging public art on and around campus as a means of extending the intellectual life of the community beyond classrooms, libraries and labs, and into the everyday spaces that shape the human experience. Concrete Happenings builds on that legacy by inviting artists, art lovers, scholars and members of the community to experience the power of public art through a yearlong celebration. This will feature exhibitions and interactive public programs, including happenings, music performances, film screenings, talks, and book and paper arts workshops.

Concrete Happenings is part of a yearlong celebration of public art in 2017. The city of Chicago’s “50x50: Celebrating 50 Years of Public Art in Chicago” initiative aims to catalyze and connect public art in each of the city’s 50 wards, and bring public art directly to Chicago neighborhoods.