Photo via Flickr/Kat Walsh
Airports have become more than merely places to catch a plane. Many boast the same array of shopping options as a suburban mall. Major international hubs are often dominated by duty-free shops, and airport dining goes well beyond McDonald’s and the generic terminal bar scene.
In many hubs, fliers can browse airside art galleries before they catch their plane, bringing a much-needed dash of culture to the utilitarian airport terminal. Some have art installations that represent their city, while a few even have full blown exhibits featuring local contemporary art or classical masterpieces.
A number of U.S. and Canadian airports have created permanent installations, and some European hubs are also trying to bring a bit of high-brow culture to passengers.
Here are four European airports that have exciting art galleries right in their terminals.
Rijksmuseum Schiphol Airport
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol's small art “museum” is located in the international departures terminal. The collection here is pretty modest in terms of size, with a collection between eight and a dozen artworks at any given time. Most exhibits are focused on fine classical art, including the works of major Dutch artists like Van Gogh.
Unfortunately, the Schiphol Rijksmuseum is undergoing renovations along with the rest of the airport. It is closed as of this writing, but is slated to reopen next year in a new space.
Edinburgh Airport Gallery
The scene is slightly more contemporary in Edinburgh Airport. As its name suggests, this is a commercial art gallery that just happens to be located in the airport. You can come in and browse the artwork and actually purchase a piece if you are so inclined.
The exhibits change frequently, and most feature artists from Edinburgh and surrounding areas. In addition to original paintings and drawings, there are prints and fine crafts such as handmade jewelry. The gallery is located after security.
Charles de Gaulle Airport Art Museum
Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a surprise that Paris, home of the Louvre and innumerable art galleries, would have an airport art museum. Even if it is expected, there is no denying that this museum is impressive. Located in the new international departures satellite, the 2,600-quare-foot space feels like it belongs in the Louvre (or some other formal exhibit hall). Different museums showcase their collections at de Gaulle in six month intervals. One of the first exhibits, for example, was a series of sculptures from the Rodin Museum.
The secondary airport in the Paris metro, Orly Airport, has a different kind of artistic attraction: weekly jazz concerts that are held right in the terminal.
Heathrow T5 Gallery
The T5 Gallery in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was opened in advance of the 2012 Summer Olympics. The gallery's exhibits rotate frequently, usually only lasting for a couple of months. Like the exhibit space in Edinburgh, this is a commercial gallery; many of the works are for sale. Located on the landside, the gallery is part of a larger space that includes exhibits sponsored by the Heathrow Sofitel.
Airports are always looking for ways to make themselves more attractive to passengers. It seems like terminal retail has reached its saturation point, so things like art galleries are only going to become more common in the coming years. For now, though, you can probably find some sort of installation at every major airport. Most aren't that impressive, but more and more are becoming buzzworthy.