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Coolest Airport Artwork

© San Francisco International Airport

From Amsterdam to Australia, these airport art exhibits are worth the trip alone.

   Web-only article

Seen any good art exhibitions lately? If air travel is on the agenda, you’re in luck: A slew of airports around the world are hosting thought-provoking art. It may seem counterintuitive—the frenetic terminal environment is hardly equivalent to a peaceful museum—but airports are catching on. You see, the experience of seeing something beautiful or thought provoking can actually ease the stress of air travel, notes Blake Summers, director of the Airport Museums and Exhibitions program at San Francisco International Airport.

While airports abroad usually earn blue ribbons for concept and design, we’re happy to report that the majority of impressive airport art collections are close to home: U.S. hubs from coast to coast have world-class exhibitions and permanent displays, along with dedicated curators. (San Francisco International, in fact, was the world’s first airport to have an accredited art program.)

Yolanda Sanchez, for example, is the director of fine arts and cultural affairs at Miami International Airport (MIA). She curates works that reflect South Florida’s cultural and ethnic diversity and brings in exhibits that bridge the cutting edge and the mainstream. “Our aim is to choose uplifting works that create that element an of surprise, things that you didn’t expect when you’re traveling and stressed out,” she explains. One challenge when selecting pieces is appealing to the enormous cross-section of viewers who will see them—and this doesn’t just apply to passengers. “We have 30,000 employees here, many of whom don’t get the chance to visit museums,” remarks Sanchez. “This art is for them as well. I like the idea of presenting contemporary art to people who might not otherwise get to experience it.”

Indeed, egalitarianism and accessibility are common denominators when it comes to the airports on our list. Many feature installations that can be touched and interacted with, such as artist Christopher Janney’s “Chromatic Oasis,” where changing lights and sounds are passenger activated, at Sacramento International Airport in Sacramento, Calif. Others, such as Amsterdam Schiphol in the Netherlands, feature priceless artworks like the current display of Dutch masters on loan from the Rijksmuseum. The international airport in Brisbane, Australia even has a fascinating, huge-scale installation in the parking lot.

For more great airport artwork, click here.

Market Place