Delta Air Lines’ rebuilt Terminal C, expected to open this spring as one of the last major features of the $8 billion La Guardia Airport transformation, will be defined by six new large-scale, site-specific permanent works of art.
“We want public art to become an important part of the appeal, inspiration and sense of place in a major new public facility,” said Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport.
The Port Authority, together with Gov. Kathy Hochul and Delta Air Lines partnered with the Queens Museum to provide Mariam Ghani, Rashid Johnson, Aliza Nisenbaum, Virginia Overton, Ronny Quevedo, and Fred Wilson—all New York-based artists—work installations in the Arrivals and Departures and associated hall. The total budget for Terminal C’s arts program is $12 million.
“Delta really wanted us to think about Queens, the most diverse county in the US, and find a way to represent it,” said Sally Tallant, the president of the Queens Museum, a close neighbor to the airport. Tallant’s team supervised the selection of the six artists, chosen from an initial pool of several dozen.
Two landmark sculptures will hang in the terminal’s atrium and be visible from the roadside, including an installation of starlight globes by Wilson, a Bronx-born MacArthur award winner, and a constellation of architectural skylights by Overton, a New York City transplant from Tennessee. A Brooklyn-born Afghan American, Ghani references more than 80 languages spoken in the Tri-State area in her tile wall installation, and Nisenbaum, a Mexican-American, paints a variety of Delta employees in a group portrait, to translate into mosaic. Johnson, who is originally from Chicago, also works in mosaic, creating the largest grid of faces in his “Anxious Men” series to date. Ecuadorian native Quevedo reconfigures and moves the gym floor and its vibrant game lines to a wall.
The art in Terminal C joins a growing gallery of public works in La Guardia, including the 1942 “Flight” mural by Works Progress Administration artist James Brooks in the Marine Air Terminal, and, unveiled in the new Terminal B in 2020, four installations by Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens and Sarah Sze. Later this year, Richard Lippold’s sculpture “Orpheus and Apollo”, which has hung in Lincoln Center for more than 50 years, will be moved to the main lobby of La Guardia, which is currently under construction.
“It’s going to be very exciting at LaGuardia to have an art destination of sorts,” Tallant said. “It speaks to the idea of building contemporary public space that celebrates the culture and the artists that make the city what it is.”