Anish Kapoor‘s “Cloud Gate” sculpture has become one of Chicago’s most famous attractions, and now, a “mini-Bean” — as the work is being affectionately called — has arrived in New York City. The Manhattan version is smaller (40 tons instead of 110), and rather than sitting in a public park, it’s huddled underneath the luxury condominium tower at 56 Leonard Street in Tribeca, where Kapoor himself purchased a property in 2016. The piece cost around $8 million, and the developer footed the bill.

Since the original Bean was installed in 2004 in Millennium Park, it has been thoroughly meme-ified, and the site has turned into a crowded tourist destination. While some may roll their eyes at the Chicago artwork’s ability to summon hoards of selfie-takers, on a chilly Thursday afternoon, passersby had a more optimistic take on New York’s new legume-shaped sculpture.

“I know they have one in Chicago and I’ve always felt like they should have one in New York,” said an interior designer who went by Riki. She lauded the new Bean’s interactive aspect, pointing out the children hunched underneath the sculpture taking photos. “The little kids are involved in the art — that’s really fun.”

The shiny public artwork has been four years in the making: Construction began in 2019, but the pandemic ground it to a halt. The British installation team was able to return to the city and resume work in September 2021, but the project soon encountered another setback — the sun caused the unfinished sculpture to unevenly heat, and it ruptured.

The project was incredibly labor intensive: 38 metal plates were precisely cut to fit next to one another, attached to an internal support system, welded together, and then polished to create a mirror-like surface.

“I plate metal and this is very, very inspiring,” Vadim Kondakov, a sculptor who works with metal materials including the same stainless steel used for the Bean, remarked as he admired the work. “It’s a liquid form and a smooth form, but it’s steel. It’s very interesting.”

Kapoor’s sculpture has yet to be named or formally designated in a ceremony, but throngs of people were already visiting to take photos.

However, a few imperfections on and around the mini-Bean are impossible to ignore: There are small pockmarks on the reflective surface and the lines of the panels show through in some places. The area behind the sculpture is a dimly lit no-man’s-land that has been blocked off by ugly orange barricades. The behemoth tower above it (it’s been nicknamed the “Jenga tower” for its unevenly stacked condos) was completed in 2017 but it already looks much older, an apparent failed push for modernity in an old neighborhood that housed beautiful buildings to begin with.

On the afternoon of Thursday, February 2, the corner of Leonard and Church streets was thronged with people taking photos of the piece, and of themselves in its mirrored surface. It’s nearly impossible to snap a picture without also capturing the photographer, but as in the original “Cloud Gate,” this feature is what makes the sculpture attractive to so many. When you look at your reflection, you also see yourself within the cityscape, which is distorted to appear even wider than it already is. It’s humbling: Kapoor is not asking viewers to reflect on what “art” is, but rather to interact with it.

Another person looking at the work, an artist who preferred to remain anonymous, said that walking by it made her experience a bout of vertigo — “as if I should be doing something to be upright, and I am upright.” (It also reminds her of the endlessly disorienting and confusing 2010 movie Inception.) “I’m a fan,” she said, adding that she liked where the sculpture was located because it “pushed back” against the city.

Building the sculpture involved constructing a complex support system and fitting 38 panels, which then needed to be welded and polished.

“It sort of compensates for this [tower] sticking up out of the ground that is disproportionately new,” she said.

Kapoor’s finished sculpture was only revealed Tuesday, January 31 and has yet to be named, with an official unveiling ceremony to take place in the spring. But the site is already packed with onlookers, a testament to the recognizability of Kapoor’s artwork (for better or for worse).

When asked about its $8 million dollar price tag, a man named Michela responded that he did not think it was worth that much. “$8 million in Tribeca — it’s the expensive neighborhood in Manhattan — it is perfect here,” he said.

While the sculpture is in part an expensive toy for 56 Leonard Street’s developer and residents, there is something mocking about the way it sits underneath the jagged monstrosity. Unlike “Cloud Gate,” which looks like a perfectly immobile droplet, Kapoor’s mini-Bean appears to be in motion, a viscous liquid trying to escape the oppressive weight of the Jenga tower. It’s already halfway out, a strange message for a developer to pay $8 million for.

“That’s small change for these people,” said the artist, who also pointed out that the purchase will ultimately help them make money. “They should be giving something back already, and more, honestly.”

The “Jenga tower” stands at Leonard and Church streets in Tribeca

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.