The Art of

Air­ports dis­cover their aes­thetic and cul­tural des­ti­na­tion

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By El­iz­a­beth Atkin­son

Some­times it catches us off guard. Some­times it is ex­actly what we need. Art al­ways has an im­pact on us. Span­ish ar­chi­tect, Luis Vi­dal, whose firm de­signed Heathrow’s T2 has said,“Air­ports are the cathe­drals of the 21st Century; they are the gate­ways to na­tions, and serve a pub­lic func­tion. That is why they must look into the fu­ture and adapt them­selves to changes and chal­lenges.”

In the past air­ports have been large in­dus­trial spa­ces that have al­lowed mas­sive ma­chines to move people from one des­ti­na­tion to an­other. How­ever, those land­scapes – not to men­tion por­traits and sculp­tures – are chang­ing and to­day art is tak­ing a solid hold in air­ports in ev­ery cor­ner of the world.

In­creas­ingly ma­jor in­ter­na­tional air­ports are home to large col­lec­tions, ex­hibits and even en­tire mu­se­ums. But they’re not the only ones who are rec­og­niz­ing the ben­e­fits of this move­ment. Here are just a few ex­am­ples: Jack­sonville, FL (JAX), Quad City In­ter­na­tional Air­port (MLI) in western Illi­nois, Helsinki Air­port (HEL), Am­s­ter­dam (AMS), Toulouse in France (TLS), Naples, FL, Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port (APF), Auk­land, New Zealand (AUK) and a host of oth­ers dot­ting the globe.

“Air­ports are the en­try­ways to our cities and pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to con­nect di­rectly with the com­mu­nity at large,” states the Jack­sonville In­ter­na­tional Air­port Arts Com­mis­sion on their web­site. “The in­ten­tion of the JAX Air­port Art & Cul­ture Pro­gram is to pro­vide a pos­i­tive dis­trac­tion, to soothe and in­spire, and to also ed­u­cate vis­i­tors about the abun­dant artis­tic and cul­tural re­sources avail­able within our ser­vice re­gion.”

Aero­dromes across the globe are seek­ing ways to de­light the trav­eler. But they’re look­ing for an ex­pe­ri­ence that goes be­yond the typ­i­cal food & bev­er­age out­lets and re­tail stores.

Mind Re­set

On a re­cent trans­fer through At­lanta Hartsfield air­port, I was rush­ing to my con­nec­tion. While I had plenty of time, I didn’t want to miss my flight. We’ve all been there. Tired. Ready to be home. As I walked through Con­course E, I was sur­prised by my own re­ac­tion to the art on the walls. I ex­haled. Re­laxed. Smiled. And was thank­ful to re­set my mind.

Since then, I have learned The Hartsfield-Jack­son At­lanta Air­port has an ex­ten­sive arts pro­gram, which has been around since 1979. Ac­cord­ing to their web­site, the Air­port Art Pro­gram de­vel­ops and in­te­grates art, ex­hibits and per­for­mances into the fab­ric of the air­port en­vi­ron­ment for the ben­e­fit of pas­sen­gers and em­ploy­ees.

The Art Pro­gram has three ma­jor com­po­nents: com­mis­sion­ing artists to cre­ate site-spe­cific art­work, pre­sent­ing ro­tat­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, and sched­ul­ing per­form­ing arts se­ries.

The Youth Art Gallery (Con­course T) opened in the sum­mer of 1997 and a sec­ond gallery opened a year later in the In­ter­na­tional Con­course (Con­course E). These gal­leries are co­or­di­nated by the Air­port Art Pro­gram in part­ner­ship with the Ge­or­gia Art Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (GAEA) demon­strat­ing a co­op­er­a­tive ini­tia­tive and com­mit­ment to giv­ing back to their com­mu­nity. For more in­for­ma­tion on additional ro­tat­ing gal­leries check out at­lanta-air­port.com.

Hartsfield also hosts a per­ma­nent collection with over 250 pieces, which grew from a hum­ble 14 pieces in 1979. The collection in­cludes one of my fa­vorite ex­hibits,“Zim­babwe: A Tra­di­tion in Stone.” This ex­hibit of 12 sculp­tures by 12 dif­fer­ent artists can be found in the pedes­trian cor­ri­dor be­tween the T Gates and Con­course A.

The works delve into the im­por­tance of fam­ily, hu­man­ity’s re­la­tion­ship with na­ture and de­sire to be spir­i­tu­ally con­nected, says the pro­gram’s web­site. The Art Pro­gram hopes that these com­mon themes res­onate with pas­sen­gers of all back­grounds.

Re­cently, I had an­other con­nec­tion through ATL and I de­cided to walk to my gate and skip the train so I could en­joy the ex­hibit. That walk was good for my mind, body and soul. As Pablo Pi­casso once said, “The pur­pose of art is wash­ing the dust of daily life off of our souls.”

In July of 2012, Changi Air­port in Sin­ga­pore made a state­ment when they in­stalled the Ki­netic Rain sculp­ture in the re­fur­bished Ter­mi­nal 1. It’s made up of two sep­a­rate seg­ments, sev­eral yards apart. Each seg­ment has 608 cop­per-plated alu­minum rain­drops, which weigh just 180 grams (6.3 oz) each. The rain­drops are sus­pended by a thin wire.

Com­puter-con­trolled mo­tors at­tached to the wires can move each rain­drop up and

down in­de­pen­dently, so that the el­e­ments form elab­o­rate mov­ing shapes. The in­stal­la­tion is pro­grammed to make the el­e­ments morph into 16 dif­fer­ent shapes dur­ing a 15-minute loop, in­clud­ing flight-re­lated forms such as air­planes, kites and hot air bal­loons.

It is the largest ki­netic sculp­ture in the world. This fas­ci­nat­ing work cap­tures the at­ten­tion and imag­i­na­tion of the mil­lions pas­sen­gers who pass through Changi Air­port ev­ery year.

The Art of Re­con­nect­ing

In Mum­bai, the new­est T2 ter­mi­nal opened in Jan­uary 2014 with a wall of art know as Jaya He mean­ing“Glory to Thee.” Cur­rently 2,000 ob­jects are on view show­ing a his­tory of In­dia for those who live there and those who come to visit. The in­stal­la­tion oc­cu­pies 80,000 square feet and curves along the con­tours of the ter­mi­nal build­ing.

In­cluded in the dis­plays are del­i­cately carved win­dows and door­ways, totems, ter­ra­cotta horses, wooden tem­ple char­i­ots, masks, sculp­tures of deities and much more which were sourced from vil­lages, col­lec­tors and mu­se­ums across In­dia.

The ex­hibit’s open­ing prompted the cu­ra­tor to com­ment that there is a need for In­dia’s cit­i­zens to be re­minded of their his­tory since the mi­gra­tion to cities had eroded some of the tra­di­tions of the past. This is a global story as cities con­tinue to grow and our con­nec­tion to the land and the past van­ishes.

Mum­bai’s ex­hibit will ex­pand to 7,000 ob­jects over time. There are works made from dis­carded beer bot­tle caps, which are stun­ningly mixed with many dif­fer­ent art forms cre­at­ing vis­ual master­pieces. The ex­hibit has also imbed­ded tech­nol­ogy into some of the dis­plays so vis­i­tors can use their iPads to ex­plore fur­ther a work of art or piece of his­tory.

A neighbor just re­turned from Mum­bai and was amazed and de­lighted at the beauty of what she saw in Ter­mi­nal 2. She couldn’t put her fin­ger on it un­til I asked her about the art­work. Quickly, she filled

my phone with pic­tures of her jour­ney as she talked about the amaz­ing art and his­tory through­out the space. Her pride in her coun­try of ori­gin pos­i­tively ra­di­ated d as she de­scribed in great de­tail the new ter­mi­nal and all its beauty.

In Tokyo’s Narita Air­port, the Ja­pan Origami Mu­seum is lo­cated in Ter­mi­nal 1, Cen­tral Build­ing, 3rd floor. There you will find over 400 works dis­played, from tra­di­tional cranes and roses to south­ern belles and Star Wars fighters and more. The he de­tail in these works is re­mark­able.

Half a world away, the far less trav­eled but no less ar­tis­ti­cally-in­clined Naples, Florida Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port wel­comed its first ex­hi­bi­tion in March. Here, the Har­mon-Meeks Gallery ex­hib­ited a collection of flo­ral wa­ter­col­ors by Gary Bukovnik. The art is on dis­play in the air­port’s Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Ter­mi­nal.

Lov­ing Art and Lik­ing It Too

In 2011, a Face­book page called“Arts in the Air­port”was cre­ated. The page de­clares that “it is fo­cused on all types of arts pro­grams in air­ports through­out the world.”It goes on to urge trav­el­ers and art lovers alike to “ex­plore, share and learn more here.‘Like’ this page and post im­ages of arts – of all kinds – that you see in air­ports as you travel through them.”It is a great space to visit when you have an up­com­ing trip that may lead you to dis­cover some new artis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence that calls an air­port home.

The same or­ga­ni­za­tion is host­ing its 12th An­nual Arts in the Air­port Work­shop from June 25- 27 in San Fran­cisco. They chose San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­cause of its imbed­ded SFO Mu­seum. “SFO com­mits it­self to pro­vid­ing its pa­trons with world-class fa­cil­i­ties and cus­tomer ser­vice,”ac­cord­ing to the air­port’s mis­sion state­ment.“To help meet this goal, SFO in­cor­po­rates art through­out the ter­mi­nals, fos­ter­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that is both en­ter­tain­ing and ed­u­ca­tional.”

Cur­rently, SFO is show­ing five ex­hibits which range from the play­ful to fas­ci­nat­ing to his­toric to #avgeek. In­cluded in this eclec­tic collection are Ja­panese Toys from Kokeshi to Kaiju; Turn, Weave, Fire and Fold,Ves­sels from the For­rest L. Mer­ril Collection; San Fran­cisco from the David Rum­sey Map Collection; Doors: En­try­ways to World Cul­tures; and Jet Age Mod­els from the collection of Anthony J. Lawler.

If you’re in SFO any­time soon, these ex­hibits are def­i­nitely worth a mo­ment of your time. If you are an artist, an air­port di­rec­tor or pub­lic art ad­min­is­tra­tor, you may want to con­sider at­tend­ing this con­fer­ence to learn more about this thriv­ing com­mu­nity.

This is Lon­don Call­ing

In June, the newly ren­o­vated ter­mi­nal at Heathrow (T2) will open with a new sculp­ture by Richard Wil­son that is in­te­grated into the ar­chi­tec­ture of the site. At over 230 feet long, this sculp­ture, called Slip­stream will be one of the long­est per­ma­nent sculp­tures in Europe.

“Slip­stream is in­spired by the ex­hil­a­rat­ing po­ten­tial of flight, cou­pled with the phys­i­cal aes­thet­ics of air­craft,”says Wil­son.“Con­structed in alu­minum, the piece aimed to so­lid­ify the twist­ing ve­loc­ity of a stunt plane ma­neu­ver­ing through the vol­ume of the new ter­mi­nal.”To gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the piece, view the video on the artist’s web­site.

In Ter­mi­nal 5 at Heathrow there’s an art gallery for young in­ter­na­tional artists to ex­hibit their works. The be­lief that art has the abil­ity to tran­scend all lan­guages makes the in­ter­na­tional Ter­mi­nal the ideal venue for a gallery. And just to en­sure you can get your new­est prized pos­ses­sion home, they have a num­ber of ship­ping and de­liv­ery op­tions to get your lat­est piece to its fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. One has to love the mar­ket­ing as­pect of this gallery, which is played out per­fectly.

“If we cit­i­zens do not sup­port our artists, then we sac­ri­fice our imag­i­na­tion on the al­tar of crude re­al­ity and we end up be­liev­ing in noth­ing and hav­ing worth­less dreams,”Yann Mar­tel wrote in Life of Pi.

In our hec­tic lives, I am thank­ful air­ports across the globe are in­stalling art­work to give busy trav­el­ers some­thing to think about as they make their way to their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. Thomas Mer­tons once said, “Art en­ables us to find our­selves and lose our­selves at the same time.”Know­ing that there’s art along your jour­ney is rea­son enough to take the time lose yourself – if only for the mo­ment – even as you find your way. BT

Pho­tos: 1- Helsinki Air­port, 2- Heathrow In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 3- Quad City In­ter­na­tional Air­port

Pho­tos: 1- Quad City In­ter­na­tional Air­port

2- Helsinki In­ter­na­tional Air­port 3- At­lanta Harts eld Air­port

4- Jack­sonville In­ter­na­tional Air­port

Pho­tos: 1- Changi Air­port 2- Narita In­ter­na­tional Air­port 3- Helsinki Air­port

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