History of CowParade

The CowParade concept originated in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1998, with an exhibit called “Land in Sicht,” or “Countryside in View.” The concept was brought to Chicago the following year with the moniker “CowParade.”

CowParade Chicago (1999) boasted some 340 cow installations along the “Miracle Mile,” Michigan Avenue. Mayor Daley proclaimed CowParade “the single largest and most successful event in the city’s history.” The exhibit generated nearly $500 million in economic impact, and auctions raised more than $3.5 million for charity.

CowParade New York City (2000) the following year attracted more than 44 million visitors, helping to establish CowParade’s international profile. With solid successes in Chicago and New York, CowParade was flooded with event inquiries from cities in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.

Since that time, CowParade has become the largest, most successful public art event in the world, with exhibits held in 75 cities in 30 countries on six continents to date. More than 10,000 local artists in those cities have produced 5,000+ signature cows, and the exhibits have been viewed by upwards of one half billion of the global population. Perhaps more impressive, CowParade has raised in excess of $30 million for its nonprofit partners in its host cities since 1999.

The rest, as they say, is history.

CowParade Artists: an historical perspective

CowParade has a rich history of creativity and artistic expression. Celebrities who’ve created cows for past CowParades include:

  • Artists Red Grooms, Richard Haas and Peter Max
  • Architects Michael Graves, Lord Richard Rogers and Lord Norman Foster
  • Designers Kate Spade, Vivienne Westwood and Karim Rashid
  • Musical artists Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones and Radiohead
  • Director David Lynch
  • Politician Vaclav Havel

Renowned designer John Roche created the highest-grossing cow in CowParade history for CowParade Dublin 2003. The cow, rendered with a mosaic of thousands of pieces of Waterford Crystal, sold for $146,000. Compare that to the average U.S. auction price of $10,000—holy cow!

Check out photos of cows from past CowParades around the world.

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