Indianapolis International Airport removes ‘permanent’ artwork

To the dismay of the mayor of Indianapolis, many local citizens, much of the arts community in Indiana and beyond and, most of all, artist James Wille Faust, on Monday night workers removed Faust’s site-specific work, Chrysalis, from its prominent spot over the main escalators at Indianapolis International Airport.

 

Chrysalis had been made for and installed in the airport’s new passenger terminal back in 2008, as part of the $4 million collection of permanent public art work that had been commissioned for the building from 17 artists and six poets.

But at IND airport, “permanent” doesn’t seem to mean what we thought. Faust’s work is to be replaced by what the airport calls an “innovative LED video wall … that will feature video-based artworks and commercial advertising.”

The video wall, to be installed in time for holiday travel, will be 22 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall and, in addition to advertising, will feature a video art series put together by curators from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

According to a release from the airport, in its first year, the On Screen art program will feature Perm Press: The American Cycle (2011), a video by Indianapolis-based artist Artur Silva that runs about a minute and includes images of Abraham Lincoln and other American icons. A project by New York-based Nina Katchadourian called Seat Assignment (2011) will follow.

In a statement, airport authority CEO John Clark said the removal of Chrysalis and the installment of the video wall was a decision made in part “to remain competitive and support our goal of being the airport system of choice.”

But many local residents, including Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, were disappointed in the decision.

“Mayor Ballard has long believed and publicly stated that visitors to our city should be welcomed by a high profile display of public art,” said Mark Lotter of the mayor’s office.

Faust also issued a statement that said in part, “We believe this defiant and perceived underhanded action speaks for itself.”