For many decades, airports the world over were synonymous with bland architecture and unimaginative designs. These were points of transit that no one much cared to linger in for very long. All this of course gradually changed. And today, most big airports are as compellingly designed and as complexly appealing to the visitors as their host cities. In fact, you don’t even need to leave the airport, foremost of your requirements can be fulfilled within their confines. Including your need to experience great art.
Airports in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, to name only the ones in this country, are today among the most sought-after exhibition spaces for artists and curators. Some even prefer airports over conventional galleries and museums to exhibit their art.
“It is like an art piece is greeting me at an airport,” says Poorti Mishra, a frequent flyer. “ I often take my flight from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and everytime I see the sculpture pieces placed there I feel quite a sense of pride for my country and its artists. You tend to feel nice when you understand that thousands of foreigners are exposed to Indian art. This feeling is very good.”
Here in India, tourists can see great artworks chiefly at New Delhi and Mumbai airports. While airports in Tier-II cities also feature artworks, to get a real sense of art on airports, people are encouraged to visit Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) and Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA).
Guardian 20 spoke to the Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (DIAL) spokesperson to know more about the airport art. “We grouped the artworks under three categories. These include: pure art, installations and mixed media. Indian spices like red for chillies, orange for saffron, green for cardamom, and yellow for turmeric are used to depict the various node buildings with dance forms from North, South, East, West of India. The namaste motif on the Node buildings which is seen by arriving passengers welcomes the national and international passengers. All the artworks like mudras, regal procession, elephants statues, surya sculpture, suryanamaskar, warli art depict Indian art in its rich heritage.”
Delhi’s T3 is even home to works by famous artists like M.F. Hussain, Anjoile Ela, Paresh Maity, Satish Gupta, Thota Tarini and many
“Earlier the area was barren but now it is lively and colourful. Airports are public spaces so why not have beautiful pieces of art on the wall rather than blank walls. Now there is always an exhibition at the reserve lounge.”
Ayush Kasliwal, who made the Mudra Wall and Surya Namaskar sculpture at DIAL told us how the place where the sculptures are fixed has become a “selfie spot” for many people. “People are excited to see the first impression of India through the sculptures and love to take pictures with the artworks. I was approached by a consultancy to make something which represents the idea of India and these figures according to me radiate Indianness,” said Kasliwal.
Satish Gupta, who made the 12-feet-high Surya sculpture in copper with gold plating, thinks that it is better to have art at airports than at the gallery. “Public should see more of visual art. A number of people are exposed to art at the airport, and since is a higher number of visitors at an airport than at a gallery, the artist also get recognised better.”
Not just the standalone artworks but there is an entire gallery at DIAL which renews its collection every three months. Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao (GMR), the infrastructure enterprise, collaborated with Delhi’s Gallery Nvya to set up the Gallerie Nvya GMR Art Walk. The artworks are put on view at reserved lounge here along with the passage area at Terminal 1D. “Earlier the area was barren but now it is lively and colourful. Airports are public spaces so why not have beautiful pieces of art on the wall rather than blank walls. Now there is always an exhibition at the reserve lounge,” says Tripat K. Kalra, the founder of Gallerie Nvya.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), which is one of the busiest airports in the world, also showcases memorable artworks. “The T2 at CSIA is envisaged as a 21st-century counterpart to these illustrious forerunners and a gateway to not only Mumbai but India for the millions who now travel by air. . In 2009, GVK articulated their vision for T2 for an airport that can compete with any global equivalent but retains a sense of place and identity, an airport that celebrates and defines India. Jaya He, the art programme at T2 captures the expanse, depth and beauty of Indian Art. It is also a distinctive narrative of India’s incredible diversity, spanning multiple centuries simultaneously. G V Sanjay Reddy, the managing director brought in accomplished scenographer, Rajeev Sethi to articulate his vision into reality - Jaya He art program is India’s largest art program for public display. The installations at ‘Jaya He’ are made from various mediums ranging from canvas, fibre, terracotta, paper, stone and metal. The mediums have been innovatively used to portray India’s rich art heritage and cultural traditions.”
The Hyderabad airport also believes in promoting locally produced art. SGK Kishore, CEO, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd. (GHIAL) says, “Hyderabad Airport has been able to encapsulate local art, culture and Architecture in its design while bearing a futuristic outlook. As an airport we always wanted to be artistically vibrant and present to the visitors the local talent and artistic flavours. To live up to this aspiration, we introduced an art gallery at the Arrivals concourse named Art@RGIA. This gallery reflects the local art work which depicts the local culture and folklore- its people and traditions. It also acts as a platform for local artists to exhibit their talent nationwide. The art gallery at Hyderabad Airport showcases the masterpieces of renowned painters like K Laxma Goud, Thota Vaikuntam, among the other artists. This art gallery is frequented by enthusiastic passengers who are curious to know about these paintings and their artists. Very soon, Hyderabad Airport will undergo expansion where the component of art and sculpture will be even more woven into overall design.”
The artworks at the airport which largely depicts Indian art and culture are taken positively by the people. Along with this, with more and more artists participating at the airport art, the space at the airports can be seen filled with various motifs and iconography in near future. The airports are surely emerging as the new art hub for aficionadas and artists.