Visual Arts
12:07 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

You Can Buy The Kansas City Board Of Trade Building, And Its Art

The Kansas City Board of Trade is slated to close its trading floor on June 28 after more than 150 years in Kansas City. In December, CME Group bought the exchange and plans to move operations to Chicago. The Board of Trade building at 4800 Main is on the market, including one of Jac T. Bowen's sculptures.

Artist Jac T. Bowen once had his fingerprints on a lot of artwork in the Kansas City metropolitan area. An illustrator, sculptor and painter, Bowen studied with Thomas Hart Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute in the 1940s. Bowen's 1942 mural, "Industrial Activity in the City" bears some resemblance to Benton's works, but there's more of a focus on the machinery.

Bowen is probably best known today for his fiberglass animal sculptures and the brass relief on the exterior of the Kansas City Board of Trade building.

Fanciful animals in fiberglass and cement

In the 1960s and 70s, Bowen received commissions from shopping malls around the country to create fiberglass sculptures - often these were whimsical animals. A covered wagon, with a farmer and oxen, stood at Corinth Square in Prairie Village, Kan. from 1962 to 1988. At The Landing in Kansas City, Mo., children could climb on Bowen's camel, lion, and elephant.

Jac T. Bowen's lithographs for his Wonderland animals. Two remain on display at the Country Club Plaza.
Jac T. Bowen's lithographs for his Wonderland animals. Two remain on display at the Country Club Plaza.

On the Country Club Plaza, the 6-foot-tall, 250-pound bunnies that crop up each Easter season were first sculpted with plaster of Paris in the early 1930s; they were reconstructed in fiberglass by Bowen in 1971. Bowen's "Wonderland" animals, including a skunk, were also on display.

In Phoenix, for the first air-conditioned mall in Arizona, Chris-Town, Brown created a fiberglass Ferdinand the Bull and a Roadrunner.

In the 2010 book "Jac T Bowen, Kansas City artist," Marybeth Lake wrote that when Bowen "was creating, he felt he was transported into a world of sheer bliss and inspiration. He felt it was the job of the artist to show people how to have beauty in every aspect of their lives."

Most of these fiberglass creations deteriorated, were demolished, or are no longer on view.

Brass and copper on the Board of Trade

Jac T. Bowen's sculpture, "Sheaves of Wheat," on the east side of the Kansas City Board of Trade building - the main entrance - has become a symbol of the organization. It was installed in 1966 when the Board of Trade moved from downtown Kansas City, Mo. to its current location.

The work stands 17 feet high and shows eight major grains with three bundles of wheat as the focal point. At the time of the installation, with its half-mile of brass tubing, it was considered the "world's largest hand-wrought brass relief."

As part of a $2.5 million renovation at the Board of Trade, a 50-foot tall copper sculpture, "Heartland Harvest" was added to the north side of the building in 1999. It was created by Joel Marquardt with Gastinger Walker Harden Architects. According to A. Zahner Company, who assisted with fabrication, the surface was created with a tool "engineered using bowling balls...to indent the metal's surface."

"Those two pieces of art would go to the buyer as part of the sale of the building," says CME Group's Laurie Bischel. Colliers International in Kansas City is representing DST Systems, Inc. and CME in the marketing of the 165,714-square-foot Board of Trade building.