Apex Experience

Only in New York

- By VALERIE SILVA

LaGuardia Airport is ready for its close-up.

At LaGuardia Airport, art isn’t an afterthoug­ht.

“I started out as an engineer, so I really wasn’t always thinking about art this much,” says Stewart Steeves, CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the consortium selected by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to rebuild and operate LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B. Art edged into Steeves’ profession­al purview in 1999, when he began working for the Vancouver Airport Authority, which manages Vancouver Internatio­nal Airport (YVR), home to a sizeable collection of over 200 pieces of Indigenous art. At the time, YVR was parent company to Vantage Airport Group, which it had created five years prior. Vantage and YVR would go on to become strategic partners, with the former leading the group tasked with overhaulin­g the New York City airport and, in keeping with tradition, showcasing original works of art as a priority.

Early architectu­re plans for Terminal B show that sitespecif­ic art was an organizing principle of the space. This is especially true for Sarah Sze’s sculpture Shorter Than the

Day, which cascades through a central cutaway, becoming visible to those lingering in baggage claim on the lower level, as well as to travelers awaiting departure on the upper floor. >

The piece is composed of slim metal rods and 1,200 photograph­s of the New York City sky taken over the course of a single day. In a glance, it neatly encapsulat­es the passage of time; with a closer look, viewers will perceive the burning red of midday and the eerie blackness of midnight.

On the airport’s most expansive wall is Laura Owens’

a nearly 25,000-squarefoot tiled mosaic depicting dozens of iconic New York

City emblems, referencin­g everything from Metro Cards and the Apollo Theater to a classic street-corner hot dog and a cheesy NY slice, hence the pizza emoji. For her part, Berlin-based artist Sabine Hornig overlaid quotes from and about the airport’s founder and former New York City mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, onto a kaleidosco­pic glass facade portraying Manhattan’s legendary skyline.

“The balloons show a bit more of a whimsical approach,” Steeves says of the fourth and final piece in the collection, commission­ed in partnershi­p with the Public

Art Fund. Jeppe Hein’s All Your Wishes features 70 glossy, steel balloons with affixed ribbons mounted as though they had floated to the ceiling. They shadow travelers as they snake through the maze of airport shops and restaurant­s, like chalk marks on a hiking trail. >

“Given the scale of these pieces, it was a constructi­on project as much as anything else,” Steeves says, describing a situation where virtual techniques were used to limit site visits, worker safety was prioritize­d when installers and artists did need to be present, and intense coordinati­on with fabricatio­n shops was required to ensure materials weren’t delayed. “It was very challengin­g, in many respects, to complete during the peak of the pandemic in New York City, but it also showed the ingenuity and get-it-done spirit of New Yorkers to make things happen no matter the context.”

The terminal’s grand reveal was held on Saturday, June 13, a day when Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing carried a sheen of optimism thanks to a plateau in COVID-19 cases, a feeling that was ultimately outlived by the implacabil­ity of the virus. Despite the ongoing downturn in air travel, Terminal B, with all its artistic touches, generated some genuine buzz – not the usual jeers at the presumed vapidness of airport art. “I mean, it was put on the front page of the New York Times’ Arts section,” Steeves says. “That is probably the first time in history for an airport.”

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 ??  ?? Laura Owens’ I NY ceramic mosaic occupies the airport’s largest interior wall with iconic New York imagery such as an ice cream truck and a hot dog. Opposite page: Sarah Sze’s Shorter Than the Day is a five-ton sphere of aluminum and steel rods from which 1,200 snapshots of the New York City sky, taken over the course of a single
day, are suspended.
Laura Owens’ I NY ceramic mosaic occupies the airport’s largest interior wall with iconic New York imagery such as an ice cream truck and a hot dog. Opposite page: Sarah Sze’s Shorter Than the Day is a five-ton sphere of aluminum and steel rods from which 1,200 snapshots of the New York City sky, taken over the course of a single day, are suspended.
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 ??  ?? Sabine Hornig took more than 1,100 snapshots of Manhattan for her piece, La Guardia Vistas (top). With All Your Wishes, Jeppe Hein dots the terminal’s retail circuit with 70 steel balloon-shaped
sculptures (bottom left and opposite page). The New York City MetroCard also makes an appearance in Owens’ piece
(bottom right).
Sabine Hornig took more than 1,100 snapshots of Manhattan for her piece, La Guardia Vistas (top). With All Your Wishes, Jeppe Hein dots the terminal’s retail circuit with 70 steel balloon-shaped sculptures (bottom left and opposite page). The New York City MetroCard also makes an appearance in Owens’ piece (bottom right).
 ??  ?? The title of Sarah Sze’s sculpture, Shorter
Than the Day is lifted from the
Emily Dickinson poem “Because I could not stop for death,” which is a meditation on mortality, eternity and the
passage of time.
The title of Sarah Sze’s sculpture, Shorter Than the Day is lifted from the Emily Dickinson poem “Because I could not stop for death,” which is a meditation on mortality, eternity and the passage of time.

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