Welcome back: cool(est) art at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) starting buying and commissioning art back in 1972.

The collection is now worth millions of dollars and includes work by many noted artists, including Frank Stella, Louis Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg and many local and regional artists.

One of the more fun and fantastical works is by the MacArthur genius award-winning artist Trimpin.

And it is one of my favorites.

“On: Matter, Monkeys and the King,” is a colorful, 80-foot-long, Rube Goldberg-style kinetic musical contraption that can – once again – be found in Concourse A at Sea-Tac airport.


According to the airport art tour, Trimpin’s airport installation is a metaphor for the movement of travelers throughout the airport.

The mulimedia and kinetic piece is intended to depict “what sound looks like.” Two interactive mobile “contraptions,” as Trimpin calls them, are constructed from found objects. The work is witty and charming, embodying both sound and rhythm. The colorful shapes you see on the roof modulate in different ways the sound originating from within the glass case.

Here’ a short video of Trimpin describing the piece – and the work in action.

The work is charming. It is witty. And it is very complicated. And, sadly, it stopped working a while back.

For months the piece stood still. Then parts start disappearing. Then the 80-foot long glass case was empty. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t coming back.

But it did! Trimpin returned to the airport a few weeks back and fixed it.

Thank-you!

(All photos courtesy Port of Seattle/Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Trimpin)

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