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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Art in the airport: does ATL appreciate art?

Today's Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a troubling story about the fate of public art in the Atlanta air port:

Art may come down
By Moni Basu
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, August 24, 2008

"It’s sort of like taking a trip before the trip.

Glowing neon tubes —- rigid lines of an incomplete square, soft curves of an open circle —- greet passengers on their way to the concourses to catch flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Artist Stephen Antonakos wanted people to gaze upward as they descended by escalator into the bowels of the airport to catch the people mover. He wanted them to have a relaxing experience before boarding a plane.

So they have done for almost three decades.

“Four Walls for Atlanta Hartsfield Airport” was one of 14 public artworks commissioned by Mayor Maynard Jackson for the airport that now bears his name. Only four are still on display —- several pieces suffered irreparable damage from neglect and environmental wear and tear.

Now, Antonakos’ work could become the latest casualty.

Airport officials are considering taking down the installation, possibly to make room for advertising.

“We move art, we move advertising,” said General Manager Ben DeCosta in describing the airport’s “dynamic” environment."

Work by Stephen Antonakos in Texas

Irrespective what one thinks about the art itself, the fact that only four of fourteen pieces originally commissioned for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport remain is a shameful show of neglect.

General Manager Ben DeCosta comments: “This is not a museum. Even in a museum, they change out the artwork.” Mr. DeCosta is being disingenuous--first shows his disregard for the art itself, then he insults our intelligence by suggesting he's following the curatorial practices of a museum by changing out the art work.

But Mr. DeCosta has no intention of changing out the work. He intends to reclaim the real estate so he can sell it to advertisers.

Should Mr. DeCosta succeed, this will be the most shameful thing to go down in an airport since the honorable senator from Idaho.

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