Man With Fish – Chicago, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

Man With Fish

Shedd Aquarium

This awkward aquarium sculpture is one of the strangest statues in Chicago.  


Behold, “Man with Fish!” Where do they come up with these creative titles? Actually, it’s a perfect description of this painted bronze sculpture and fountain, located outside of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

Created by German artist Stephan Balkenhol, the 16-foot-tall public art depicts a man embracing a fish that has water spitting out of its mouth. It symbolizes humans’ love and fascination with aquatic life and the responsibility we have for caring for the world’s lakes, rivers, and oceans. 

There are more than 32,500 fish swimming inside the Shedd Aquarium, but this big fish is the only one who can talk. As part of Statue Stories Chicago, a citywide public arts initiative, you can click the QR code next to the statue and hear a script written by actor Chris Redd of The Second City and voiced by actor Steve Carell.

Sadly, Man with Fish has not always received glowing reviews. The sculpture is often voted atop the list of ugliest statues in Chicago, some say because the man’s expression is too enthusiastic about embracing a giant fish (though the artist is actually known for sculpting lifelike human forms with banal, emotionless expressions). Others find the entire design strange and perplexing.

What is great about this water-spewing oddity is that it’s fun. Not every artist creates a Venus de Milo, and that’s okay. So, hats off to Man with Fish and its designer. After taking in the statue, check out Shedd Aquarium and the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline. 

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