People that spend a lot of time in airports tend to remove certain brain functions over the course of the time they spend in them, the ones dedicated to artistic expression to be specific, and enter into a certain “eyes on the prize” autopilot.
But sometimes, especially if you have extra time, you may want to exercise your right-brain awareness and check out some art.
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It may not be widespread enough to be considered a movement yet, but increasingly airports are starting to give their passengers a friendlier creative environment in which to spend their time while they’re there.
Today I’ve assembled a short list of international airports where you can pass some hard hours letting your mind drift across the silver plains of artistic expression, as opposed to letting it roll around on your shoulders while camped out on a vinyl seat.
The following airports have spaces specifically set aside for art (not necessarily random pieces hanging on terminal walls) and are curated in some way by people looking to showcase artists’ work.
The acclaimed Airport Gallery at Edinburgh Airport brings together international as well as local artists with paintings, drawings and craftworks. The exhibits change frequently with the current exhibition in place through Jan. 2011. You can even purchase the work you see inside.
Since 2002, Schiphol has had an on site extension of the city’s great Rijksmuseum, claiming the honor of being the first museum in the world to have an annex at an airport. It’s located beyond passport control between the E and F Pier with a permanent collection by the Dutch masters and a rotating exhibit of temporary works.
If you can’t get enough of the art in the annex, why not head into town and spend some time in the original building, which is a straight shot 20 minute train ride to central station, then a 15 connection on a street line.
After checking out Schiphol’s art gallery, why not browse their library?
While not exactly at the airport, Beijing does have an art collection that can be accessed by way of the Langham Palace Hotel, or as they say, “an art gallery masquerading as a hotel.” And since the Langham Palace is close enough to the airport (just next to Terminal 3) you can easily browse their collection of more than 400 canvases, sculptures and art installations on public display. Definitely well worth seeing.
If the 10 minute walk is too far, use the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service. (You can’t miss it — it’s the shuttle in top to bottom pink!)
You just knew Changi would be on here – it’s the airport lover’s airport. Changi has just about every convenience known to man, and all delivered with beautiful Asian flair. Their Aviation Gallery has what they call “multi-sensory zones” consisting of information “islands” with hands-on interactive displays for both children and adults. Plus there’s not just one but two of them, in terminals T2 and T3, accessible to people going to and coming from different places around the world. In terms of sheer elegance and experimental quality Changi doesn’t discriminate.
The Aviation Gallery is free and open 24 hours (Electronic components maybe closed 12am – 9am for maintenance.)
In a strange discovery I found the number of US airports having some kind of gallery space was significantly higher than the rest of the world, with a fair selection of cities, both major and minor housing small to midsize galleries of their own. Here’s the list.
One of the biggest airport galleries in the US is in Jacksonville, Florida of all places, with a permanent and rotating collections. In operation since 1995 and maintained by a 12 person volunteer staff.
Another fantastic gallery is located in Springfield-Branson National Airport, Springfield, MS and is open 24 hours.
Or read the full rundown in an article on the subject in the USA Today.
Of course this list far from complete, as far as I know. Since it’s humanly impossible to visit every airport in the world (I can’t even say I’ve completely explored the ones I have been to), I’ll leave the rest up to you. If you’ve been to an art gallery in an airport in your travels somewhere in the world, please let us know where and how they were in the comments.