Miami International Airport is home to one of the world’s most impressive collections of public art
Welcome to Miami. Bienvenido a Miami - these are signs you expect to see upon arrival at Miami International Airport. What you might not expect is the breadth and scope of the airport’s museum-quality public art on display. Think, sculptures of marine life swimming in snowflake-like constellations by Donald Lipski and Michele Oka Doner’s landmark terrazzo floors awash in mother of pearl and cast bronze sea creatures spanning a half mile stroll through the terminal.
Art in Public Places
Nearly 40 million passengers come through Miami International Airport annually making it quite the arena for public art. Since 1973, MIA has been a trailblazer of airport art through Art in Public Places, a countywide capital improvement initiative that invests 1.5 percent of the cost of all new county construction, in public art. At Miami International Airport, this means site specific installations and galleries spanning the airport’s terminals and its exterior. The works are curated to enhance the terminal environment by entertaining and educating travelers while distracting them from the stresses of modern day air travel.
Site Specific Installations
With miles of terminals, catwalks and bridges, the airport makes for a unique venue for site specific installations. Much of the work is integrative and interactive, so you may not even realize that you’re walking through a work of art. Christopher Janney’s “Harmonic Convergence” transforms the MIA Mover Station Skyride Connector into a prismatic rainbow with the sun shining through diamond-shaped tinted glass windows.
Even the airport’s exterior “Noise Abatement Wall” on NW 36th Street is a work of art developed by artist-architect Martha Schwartz in Miami Modern curvilinear lines and portholes. Similarly, the Central Collection Plaza’s road is paved in pastel undulating waves inspired by Miami’s light and water by artist John David Mooney.
Florida’s unique ecosystem is represented in many installations, including Brad Goldberg’s “Coral Eden,” made of two 90-foot tall stone walls with macro photographs of brain coral imprinted on them.
One of the most recognizable installations is found in North Terminal D. The architect-artist duo Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar have constructed an enormous word art sculpture made of flowers that reads “ALL WE NEED IS LOVE.”
In 1996, four galleries were activated for temporary exhibitions, each with its own curatorial focus. In the Central Terminal, the Fine Art Gallery features contemporary fine art, while the Children’s Gallery displays works by Miami-Dade Public School children. The Handmade Gallery in the South Terminal features global handcrafts and folk art and Terminal D’s Camera Works Gallery showcases photography.
These exhibitions are often produced in partnership with non-profits, universities, and other cultural programs around the city, including Pérez Art Museum Miami, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and Art For Learning. Notable recent exhibitions have included a Camera Works exhibition celebrating 100 years of Miami’s aviation history in partnership with History Miami.
The Handmade Gallery’s “Carnival Arts” exhibition featured Caribbean crafts made by youth housed at Miami Bridge, a group home for children of domestic abuse and behavioral problems, in partnership with Barry University.
The Fine Arts Gallery’s “The Highwaymen,” featured a collection of plein air Florida landscape paintings from the 1950s by African American artists who were not allowed to show their art in galleries and so they sold it from the trunks of their cars along the highway. Performance art even comes into play with dance and musical performances occasionally staged throughout the terminals.
The next time your plane touches down in MIA, don’t forget to look around to get a taste of Miami’s art and culture before you even leave the airport.
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