Airports administrators are always valiantly attempting to add some levity to the travel experience, god bless ’em. Yet in this ongoing quest for whimsy and spectacle, they’ve also managed to commission some of the world’s weirdest art. Because what could possibly aid your re-entry into civilisation after being strapped to a chair for six hours? Flying corn!
Take Corncorde, for example, at the Atlanta airport. It’s a carved wood piece that’s part of the Flying Vegetables series by artist Craig Nutt. It even has a “control tower” made from a carrot. Although I see the motivation behind suspending this crowdpleasing folly above travellers heads, I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy a ticket to VeggieTales International Airport. (Also: Do they even grow corn in Atlanta? Shouldn’t this be a peach?)
While some airports boast actual, accredited museums with curated exhibitions and borrowed works, like San Francisco International, most of the time they’re commissioning these kind of tactical failures. Why is that? Airports present a perfect storm of airy indoor spaces, plus the deep pockets of subsidised funding, mixed with some misguided, decision-by-committee will to visualise civic pride.
Add it all up, and it equals some of the most regretfully bizarre pieces ever to grace domestic airspace. Keep an eye out for these wacky works en route to your next flight.
Vendor with Walkman by Duane Hanson, FLL
If you’re moving too quickly through Terminal 3 of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, you might miss Duane Hanson’s Vendor with Walkman completely. That’s because this sculpture is meant to evoke a totally realistic airport experience of this guy chilling with his Sony Sports Walkman. It’s actually quite beautiful in its attention to banal detail, right down to the souvenir hat.
Leap by Lawrence Argent, SMF
In Sacramento a 17m long aluminium rabbit is suspended in air between two floors in the airport’s new Terminal B. With the large glass atrium behind him, the Giant Red Rabbit appears to have hopped right though the windows of the terminal, making a break for the nearest Cinnabon. Actually, the story is that he’s trying to retrieve a piece of luggage which is part of the sculpture, cemented to the ground below. Which is kind of interesting since there’s a giant stack of suitcases serving as public art in another terminal. Maybe his bag got lost.
Kopperscape by Karim Rashid, YEG
I am sure, at one point, that the great Karim Rashid, king of blobular furniture and swooshy plastic, meant for his fibreglass installation Kopperscape to evoke the copper that’s mined in the hills near the Edmonton airport. But this artwork — which doubles as seating! — just comes across like a field of sagging, melting Milk Duds. Or something worse.
Sky’s the Limit by Michael Hayden, ORD
In case you want to tweak out between connecting flights, go no further than this light show in a tunnel connecting the B and C concourses at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Sky’s the Limit consists of two moving sidewalks and 466 neon tubes, which is nine neon tubes more than the brain is able to process while jetlagged. It even plays “Rhapsody in Blue” so you can pretend you’re in a United ad.
Crystal Mountain by Dennis Oppenheim, DFW
It was a tough call, choosing this piece over Dallas’ other notable airport artworks — like the giant wishbone in the North Ticket Hall. But David Oppenheim’s Crystal Mountain was the winner, mostly because it looks like what might happen if the Starks hired Frank Gehry to redesign Winterfell. But I have a bigger thematic complaint with Crystal Mountain — namely, the fact that there are NO MOUNTAINS in Dallas. Why the ice castle?
Mustang by Luis Jiménez, DEN
Arriving passengers are likely to hightail it right back out of Denver International Airport once they lay eyes upon Mustang, the 10m fibreglass horse that rears over the airport’s entrance. What’s even freakier than this bucking bronco’s bright blue schlong? How about its red devil eyes? What’s even freakier than those? How about the fact that sculptor Luis Jiménez DIED after the statue fell on his leg, severing his artery? What’s even freakier than that? Oh, just the fact that the horse can be used to TRAVEL THROUGH TIME! Seriously, I could do a whole post solely on the beautyredefined, Broward County; Kreysler & Associates, design boom, Thinking Lightly, DFW, Western Art and Architecture
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