6 Secret Airport Art Museums

Around the World, Culture/History — By Rachel Greenberg on February 26, 2010 at 11:55 am

Experiencing the artistic culture of a city is an integral part of any trip, and here at NileGuide we definitely recommend seeking out museums, public sculptures and murals in any city you visit. But if you get to the airport for your flight home and realize that somehow, amidst all those pub crawls and beach days, you didn’t get a chance to experience the local art scene, you may still be in luck!

Surprisingly, tons of airports around the world house impressive collections of modern and classical art that you can check out free of charge. So whether you haven’t yet met your culture-quota for your trip or just have a few minutes to kill before your flight, make the most of your time by scoping out these awesome airport museums.

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Although the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport is home to both permanent and temporary exhibits, its most famous collection is called Zimbabwe: A Tradition in Stone. This permanent collection, located in the pedestrian corridor of the Transportation Mall, brings together 12 of Zimbabwe’s top sculptors who created twenty contemporary pieces for the exhibit.

One of the largest collections of its kind, the exhibit features works that focus on family, spirituality, and the broad human connection between the two. And with funding set aside by the City of Atlanta’s Airport Art Program, several more permanent exhibits are planned for the Atlanta Airport in the near future.

Images: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

2. San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco’s Airport Museum is one of the largest and most established of its kind. The program features a permanent museum dedicated to aviation, an aviation library, and multiple traveling exhibits of modern art and antiques that are placed all around the international terminal.

Just a few of the exhibits currently being shown are a pinball exhibit with games from the past 100 years, Chinese jade sculptures from the 18th and 19th centuries, and a photography exhibit of early airports in Latin America.

Images: San Francisco International Airport

3. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

The Amsterdam Airport Schiphol boasts a stunning modern design and it’s mini-museum, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol, is no exception. Filled with pieces on loan from its parent museum, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the exhibition space is full of 17th century museum quality masterpieces. Currently on display are paintings by the famous artist brothers Peiter the Younger Breughel and Jan Breughel.

Image: Rijkmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol

4. Philadelphia International Airport

The Philadelphia International Airport established an Exhibitions Program in the summer of 1998, and since then the airport has been filled with an eclectic array of rotating exhibits on display. Currently, there are 17 exhibits ranging from minimalist pottery to a photography exhibit that pairs images of the plain exterior and lush interiors of Amish horse-drawn buggies.

Another particularly interesting exhibit features the art of Alex Queral who sculpts portraits from the pages of old phone books, creating three dimensional pieces of art.

Images: Philadelphia International Airport

5. Toronto Pearson International Airport

What’s especially impressive about the art collection at Toronto Pearson International Airport is that many of the large scale permanent installations and temporary exhibits are chosen from open calls for artwork, not commissioned by famous, already established artists. In this way, the airport is able to support emerging and undiscovered artists whose work might not otherwise be seen. One of the most charming exhibits currently on display, is the work of photographer Rob MacInnis who poses farm animals as vaudeville actors on stage.

Images: Rob MacInnis

6. Denver International Airport

Although Denver International Airport is the largest international airport in the United States, its artwork has made it one of the most infamous. Several large murals painted by Leo Tanguma entitled “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “The Children of the World Dream of Peace” are the subject of widespread conspiracy theories.

Some people think the murals are full of masonic symbols and that their violent and destructive images refer to a “New World Order” that the US government is planning on carrying out against its people…while others see the murals simply as politically charged works of art.

Images: Closer to God

Tags: airports, art, culture


  • Dave -nibbleanibble says:

    I think it’s great that more places are doing this now. You can get a feel of the surroundings without too much work.

  • Paola says:

    I never knew airports have museums. But, glad to know.

  • Ted E says:

    Some airports fall into the category of museum artifacts themselves….

  • Johannes Hansen says:

    The San Francisco airport exhibit of old Chinese jade sculptures is really interesting. They have this cool jade Buddha incense burner where the smoke would billow out the mouth and ears of Buddha. I’ve wanted one of those ever since I saw it, however, I haven’t been able to find any.


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