There is a culture war brewing between Chicago and Houston for who has the better bean.
And we’re not talking about an argument between baristas at downtown coffee shops. We’re talking about art. High art. Like, 30 feet high. And weighing a little over 10 tons.
Houston recently purchased a piece of art from internationally renowned British sculptor Anish Kapoor. Called “Cloud Column”, it’s a gigantic metal ovoid made out of stainless steel. It looks a bit like a stretched-out metal egg, or maybe even something out of a sci-fi TV miniseries, with the reflected images making the 30-foot sculpture seem like a portal to another dimension.
And while most Houstoners are proud of their giant metal bean, there’s a few people who aren’t all that stoked about it. Namely, everyone in Chicago.
You see, Chicago was the first city to get their own giant metal bean from renowned British sculptor Anish Kapoor. Called “Cloud Gate”, it’s been in the middle of Millennium Park since 2006 and was affectionately nicknamed “the bean” shortly after its installation.
You could call this mere jealousy, and if you read the email exchange between The Chicago Tribune’s Kim Jannsen and the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray, you might get the impression this tiff goes a bit deeper than that.
"If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean's verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices," Kim fires off in an opening salvo on The Tribune’s website.
Lisa quickly picked up the gauntlet and offered her own retort:
"Is Chicago feeling defensive? How bad is it there, knowing that Houston is set to pass you in population, taking your spot as third-largest city in the US? Are you feeling—well, to steal someone's joke from Twitter—like a 'has-bean?'"
Kim did not take this one lying down. "It's a leftover bean, a second-rate bean that's been lying around in storage for the better part of 20 years because nobody else wanted it," she clapped back.
Quick aside: “Cloud Column” was originally built in 1999 in London. It took 5 years to make and 3 years to polish into the shining column installed in Houston last week. Chicago’s bean, conversely, was made and assembled entirely in the USA.
Things between Kim and Lisa eventually devolved into name-calling and riffing on which town has the better sports team. We’ll leave you with this closer, which is as much a mic-drop as one can get in print.
From Kim to Lisa:
“As a certified hater, I thought I'd never find as chippy a city as Chicago. But the outpouring of bile from Houston has genuinely surprised me, and given me hope that you may one day amount to something worthy of our rivalry.
“In the meantime, enjoy your bean, which is not as good as our bean, and never will be.”