In 2019, 9.6 million visitors paid to peruse the art at the Louvre Museum in Paris. That same year, more than 17 million people passed through terminals at Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), where there’s also museum-quality art on view. For free.
We’re not suggesting travelers swap a trip to the Louvre for an art tour of AUS. But art lovers who take a moment to look around the AUS terminals before or after a flight will find plenty of art and cultural treasures.
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Right now, for example, AUS is exhibiting five prints and a sculpture by Banksy, the well-known and controversial British street artist whose real identity is unknown and whose work often makes a satirical comment on political and other situations.
The Banksy exhibit at AUS shows the traveling public his very well-known image of Balloon Girl, as well as some less well-known but equally thought-provoking work. On view in the airport’s Clarksville Gallery through March 31, 2022, the collection is on loan to the airport by local private art collectors who sought an opportunity to share the pieces with the community and the traveling public in time for the holiday season, New Year, and visitors to the SXSW Conference and Festivals in early March, says AUS Arts Program Manager Cory Anne Hurless.
Some Banksy work has famously been sold for over $24 million. And while the pieces on display at AUS may not be similarly valued, the Banksy show at AUS is certainly one of the airport’s most high-profile exhibits. “They are very valuable original signed works,” says Hurless, who couldn’t divulge the confidential security protocols in place to protect these pieces. But she did say, however, that “the work is very well monitored and maintained according to current museum standards for collections care. And are insured by the City of Austin.”
Don’t worry if you don’t make it to AUS in time to see the Banksy exhibit. The airport has plenty of other high-quality art scattered throughout the terminals and often works with local groups to bring special exhibits to the airport. “A couple of great and valuable partnerships have been with Six Square – Austin’s Black Cultural District, the Mexic-Arte Museum, Capitol Arts Society, The Museum of Popular Art in Mexico City, and the La Peña Gallery,” says Hurless.
Next time you visit AUS airport, keep in mind there are five temporary exhibit areas that feature a rotating collection of pieces by local and international artists. As a nice touch, galleries are named after notable Austin neighborhoods: Zilker (across from gate 18), Jollyville (across from gate 20), Moore’s Crossing (across from gate 12), Clarksville (across from gate 10), and Colony Park (across from gate 10).
The airport also has a great collection of permanent public art that ranges from the eight ten-foot-tall guitars in the baggage claim level that were painted and adorned by local artists to Young Min-Kang’s spaceship-like Austin Downtown Cruiser – a day and night version – on the east and west mezzanine walls.
This year AUS is also adding three new and soon-to-be-completed public art pieces to the terminals. Meanderwing is an outdoor installation by artist Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY; Interimaginary Departures in an interactive experiential installation next to gate 14 in the Barbara Jordan Terminal; and Plume is a large sculpture by local artist duo Studio Modo.
Hurless believes having art in airports can have a positive influence. “It can touch anyone’s life, young or old, art lover or no, even to put a smile on their face. I delight in those possibilities,” she says. Going forward Hurless says she’s looking for a way to innovate the AUS art program and looking at opportunities to highlight other mediums including video, performance, gaming arts, and crypto NFT art.
“I also want to utilize art as a form of therapy to relax airport travelers,” says Hurless. “We all know about the uptick in passenger aggressiveness, so I am experimenting with ways to use art in strategic places in the airport to encourage positive meditation.”
Featured image courtesy of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.