New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a group of new commissioned artworks at LaGuardia Airport on June 10, signaling that the city is slowly beginning to return to normal.
The works, curated by the Public Art Fund, are by Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens, and Sarah Sze, who were selected from an initial group of 25 artists from 11 countries.
“The artwork, it really is breathtaking,” Cuomo told reporters at a press conference. “I actually installed the mosaics here personally. I did it on Saturday afternoons and in the evenings and in my personal time. It’s part of my Italian heritage. I did mosaics in my bathroom, I did the backsplash in my kitchen—this was a little larger, but I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity and I’m glad I came through.”
The mosaic Cuomo was referring to, which stretches across the entirety of the Terminal B main departures hall, is the work of Owens. Titled , it took nine months to complete and is among the largest mosaics in the world. With 625,000 glazed ceramic tiles, it covers nearly 25,000 square feet.
Sze’s work, which is suspended from the ceiling, is a spherical sculpture that includes nearly 1,000 photographs of the sky over New York, taken at various times throughout the day. Titled after an Emily Dickenson poem, it weighs five tons.
The walkway connecting the arrivals and departures areas to the parking garage features Hornig’s colorful, two-story glass mosaic, which is a tribute to the airport’s namesake, former New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The translucent collage, titled , pairs images of the city with quotes by La Guardia, including one that reads: “It has been my lot all my life to be called radical. Why? Only because I have consistently objected to conditions which I have conscientiously believed were wrong.”
Hein, meanwhile, created functional, bright red benches with fanciful looping curls where travelers can stop to rest. The benches are paired with 70 reflective balloon-shaped steel sculptures that hang from the ceiling
“Civic architecture should not only be functional, but inspiring and appealing… Part of the design requirements were to have key art pieces built in,” Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said at the press event. “The Public Art Fund’s selections bring creativity, energy, buoyancy, and spirit to this new civic space.”
Only Hein’s work is located past security checkpoints, but it will be some time until the general public can make a dedicated art pilgrimage to LaGuardia: due to the shutdown, the terminal will be open only to ticketed passengers, employees, and those on official business.
The Port Authority broke ground on the new terminal four years ago as part of a major expansion and overhaul that will bring the airport to 840,000 square feet of space. When it’s done, LaGuardia will go from being the “worst airport in the country to the best,” Cotton said.
The unveiling came just days after New York City entered phase one of the state’s reopening plan, allowing some nonessential businesses to resume business for the first time since March 22.
“We needed this today,” Cuomo said at the press conference. “We needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We needed to see possibility. We needed to see New York stand up and shine. We needed to remember how great a place this is and how great a people we are.”
See more photos of LaGuardia’s new art below.