The world of airport art: memorable and divisive

In airports worldwide, passengers can witness some striking and, in some cases, strange works of art. While some works have divided opinions, they are nonetheless a sight to behold. We profile a selection of the most memorable airport artworks.


Blue mustang

Denver International Airport, Blue Mustang

As passengers approach Denver International Airport (DIA), they are welcomed by a 32ft tall, blue horse statue with intimidating red eyes, known as the 'Blue Mustang'.

Situated on Peña Boulevard, the main road to the airport, the 9,000lb sculpture was erected in 2008.

It was designed by New Mexico artist Luis Jiménez, who died during the creation of the statue in 2006 when a large section of the Mustang fell on him while it was being moved in his studio.

DIA public art administrator Matt Chasansky told CNN: "Jiménez's work elicits strong feelings as his pieces are very striking.

"About 50% of people I've spoken with love his work, while the others hate it."

The piece has indeed provoked a love-hate response from regular passengers, with some describing it as the "Devil Horse" and "Blucifer".

Perhaps it is best summed up by the former Denver City Council president Michael Hancock, who said: "It will forever incite dialogue, promote dialogue and discussion."

kinetic rain

Singapore Changi Airport, Kinetic Rain

Unveiled in 2012, Changi Airport's Kinetic Rain, created by German company Art+Com for an undisclosed cost, has been described as the world's largest kinetic sculpture.

It consists of 1,216 bronze droplets that are attached to individual motorised pulleys in the ceiling of Terminal 1's departure hall. It spans an area of 75m2 and is 7.3m high.

These droplets flow like rain following commands from a computer, making a number of shapes and formations.

Its creators have said that the bronze rain "aims to be a source of identity for its location, and provides a moment for passengers to contemplate and reflect".

Jussi Angesleva, the project designer, said that the piece can "morph" into 16 different shapes, including an aeroplane, kite or hot air balloon, during a 15-minute loop - adding that this means there is "no clear beginning or end to it".

Slipstream heathrow

London Heathrow Airport, Slipstream

Slipstream, unveiled to the public in April 2014, is suspended 18m above the ground at Heathrow's Terminal 2.

Weighing 77 tonnes, the sculpture is made of up 23 individual sections and is the work of British artist Richard Wilson. It is modelled after the aerobatics of a Zivko Edge 540 stunt plane.

"Slipstream is a metaphor for travel; it is a time-based work that responds to its location," Wilson said on Heathrow's official website.

"I thought this might make the journey a bit more exciting," he later added in an interview with the Guardian. "I wanted to stop passengers in their tracks."

It took two years to make - with the individual sections manufactured in Hull - and with a length of 78m, is the longest piece of permanent art and the largest privately funded sculpture in Europe.

An estimated 20 million passengers pass underneath Slipstream every year.

Aboriginal art

Brisbane Airport, Aboriginal art

The Aboriginal artwork at Brisbane Airport was unveiled in August 2015 as part of a $45m redevelopment of the international terminal.

The selection of pieces by the late Indigenous artist Sally Gabori, has been reproduced in large print and runs from the ceiling to floor for 750m along the arrivals concourse.

According to Brisbane Airport, the installation "evokes the essence of Queensland and depicts the artist's stories of the tropical seascape, salt pans, mangrove swamps and reefs on Bentinck Island".

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO and managing director, Julieanne Alroe, said upon its opening: "To have Mrs Gabori's artwork as a prominent welcome to international travellers from around the globe is an immense honour for Brisbane Airport."

Brisbane Airport claims one of the largest collections of public art in Australia.

Approximately five million international passengers use the airport every year.

Leap rabbit art

Sacramento International Airport, Leap

Passengers who use Sacramento Airport's Central Terminal B will find a 56ft red rabbit hanging from cables.

Weighing 10,000lb, the rabbit was installed as part of the terminal's $1bn construction in 2011, and cost $800,000.

The sculpture, made of steel and aluminium, is the brainchild of Lawrence Argent and is officially called Leap. The rabbit was chosen to represent travellers leaping into the unknown.

Shelly Willis of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission said back in 2011: "It will be something that people think of when they think of Sacramento."

Argent himself told the Seattle Times: "I wanted to play around with the idea that something has come from the outside and leapt into the building." He also added that the distinctive red colouring was chosen to give it "the acceleration of a Ferrari".

lamp bear art

Hamad International Airport, Untitled (Lamp/Bear)

Hamad International in Doha, Qatar is home to many pieces of art, but perhaps the most famous, and hard to miss, installation is the giant Lamp Bear.

The yellow teddy bear, by Swiss artist Urs Fischer and officially called 'Untitled (Lamp/Bear)' is 23ft high and weighs almost 20 tonnes. It is a painted bronze sculpture.

It was previously placed in front of the Seagram Building on New York's Park Avenue, but currently sits in the centre of the airport, after reportedly being bought by a member of the Qatari Royal family for around $6.8m.

Hamad also features a series of sculptures of the Arabian oryx, an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula, by Dutch artist Tom Claassen, as well as Tom Otterness' Other Worlds installation, a series of eight bronze sculptures in Terminal C.

Blue ribbon

San Diego International Airport, The Journey

San Diego's 'The Journey' - opened in 2013 and located in Terminal 2 - has 37,000 LED light pendants, 6ft wide by 700ft long, and is suspended from the ceiling.

These emit low-resolution images of people, as well as birds in flight, and run from the security section to some of the departure gates.

It was designed by Jim Campbell and has been described as a "ribbon".

The airport's art programme manager Constance White told KBPS in 2013: "People will dance all the way through the ribbon. People will swim through the ribbon, and you'll see the birds playing with the people as they're interacting with the light."