'City Windows': Chicago's Latest Art Connects City with China

New public art represents deep friendship between Chicago and China

By Megy Karydes,

Chicago is home to a large and varied collection of great public artwork, from Chicago’s Pablo Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza and Marc Chagall’s Four Seasons mosaic in Chase Tower Plaza to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass windows in Navy Pier.

The city continues its artistic tradition with the recently installed new set of windows by Chinese artist Qiao Xiaoguang: City Windows.

City Windows: The Artwork

City Windows is the city’s newest art installation, located at O’Hare International Airport by Gate B19 at the United Airlines Terminal. Artist Xiaoguang used the ancient art of Chinese paper cutting to create a panorama of iconic images from Chicago and Beijing on 15 window panels.

"City Windows" is an art installation at O'Hare Airport created by Chinese artist Qiao Xiaoguang, using the art of Chinese paper cutting — Photo courtesy of Chicago Department of Aviation

Seven of the windows represent images of Chicago, including Navy Pier, the Wrigley building and Willis Tower. Seven windows depict images of Beijing, including the Forbidden City and the Bird’s Nest from the 2008 Olympics. The middle window represents the meeting of the two as Lake Michigan and Hohai Lake come together in a single image.

Each window measures approximately 120 inches high by 54 inches wide; they can be seen both inside the terminal and by cars approaching the terminal.

Those not traveling via O’Hare have another chance to view the artwork, since the original paper cut pieces will be on display as a temporary exhibit at the Field Museum beginning Thursday, Feb. 19, and going through Friday, May 27, 2016. The exhibit is located in the balcony overlooking Stanley Field Hall, at the entrance to the museum’s major new China Hall, which will open in June.

Qiao Xiaoguang: The Artist

Xiaoguang is a prominent Chinese artist and scholar and one of the finest contemporary practitioners of paper cutting.

Currently the director of the Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Center at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, he has made it his life’s work to keep alive this ancient art form. In fact, he has even traveled to the remote villages of China – where traditional paper cutting is still done – to study, preserve and record the practice.

Chinese paper cutting dates back more than 1500 years. Intricate patterns and images symbolizing happiness, luck and prosperity were traditionally hung around windows and doors to usher in the new year, so it’s fitting that the temporary exhibit at the Field Museum coincides with Chinese New Year. 

City Windows is a new and important addition to the city of Chicago’s public art collection. The work was conceived when he was an artist-in-residence at Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center and created as a tribute to the deep friendship and cultural and business connections between Chicago and China.

It’s worth a visit to O’Hare International Airport or the Field Museum to appreciate the intricate work of Xiaoguang’s modern interpretation of the ancient Chinese paper cutting art form.