Dozens of colorful and reflective balloon-shaped steel sculptures by artist Jeppe Hein are distributed throughout Terminal B, as if released into the air and allowed to float to the ceiling in defiance of gravity. Dispersed around every corner like a fairytale breadcrumb trail, Hein’s brilliantly playful balloons invite viewers to look skyward and embrace their sense of wonder. At floor level, Hein’s witty and whimsical bench sculptures reinvent a familiar form of public seating, turning a functional object into a lyrical and evocative work of art. Three bright red benches curve, loop, and twist to form an irresistible invitation to spontaneous expression and social connection. Providing for a moment of respite to countless travelers, Hein’s benches offer new perspectives on ourselves, each other, and the spaces we have in common.
Over two decades, Hein has created sculptures and installations that question the traditional relationship between artwork and spectator. Often taking the form of interventions in public spaces, his installations merge the conceptual with the experiential, and are activated by viewers’ participation. In Hein’s work, seemingly simple and familiar media—text, mirrors, water, brushstrokes, and common utilitarian and decorative objects—are introduced in unexpected contexts or endowed with uncanny behaviors. These wry juxtapositions elicit responses of surprise and enchantment that entice us to consider novel ways of relating to our world and ourselves. Characteristic of Hein’s practice, the two forms of ‘social sculpture’ installed in Terminal B were conceived with a sincere intent: to spark joy, alter perceptions, open the viewer to new experiences, and create the conditions that foster moments of empathy and fellowship amidst the hustle of a busy transit hub. The sleek aesthetic of Hein’s objects draws from the traditions of 1970s minimalism and conceptual art, but despite their formal simplicity, each of his works are handcrafted through rigorous and exacting technical processes. Hein lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
ABOUT THE COMMISSIONS
Throughout history, extraordinary works of art have often played a key role in civic spaces that not only serve the public, but capture and express the spirit of their culture and place. That aspiration has informed the development of this series of major permanent installations for the Arrivals and Departures Hall of LaGuardia Airport Terminal B, commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners in partnership with Public Art Fund. Opened to the public by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in June 2020, Terminal B is a key feature of the most dramatic transformation of New York City’s transportation infrastructure in a generation.
Public Art Fund was invited to partner with LaGuardia Gateway Partners, developer and operator of Terminal B, to formulate and implement a comprehensive art program for the new building. The goal was not simply to place existing works of art in an airport, but to commission four of the world’s leading artists to create ambitious site-specific works that would become part of the fabric of the building itself. The four artists—Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens, and Sarah Sze—were each encouraged to draw on their own experience of New York City. The resulting works reflect a richly-layered global city defined by its creative energy, openness, diversity, and democratic spirit.
Fluid space and abundant natural light characterize the architecture of the terminal, which the artists have responded to and incorporated into their own installations. Each work has a “lightness of being” in both form and content, adapting to the monumental scale of the building with works that seem to float in and animate space in surprising ways. The artists’ subject matter ranges across New York’s built and natural environment, its cultural personality, and its history – including that of the airport. In taking on the challenge to create a permanent work of art for LaGuardia Airport, Hein, Hornig, Owens, and Sze have each demonstrated their extraordinary talent. Working at an unprecedented scale, often with unfamiliar materials, these four artists have helped to transform this vital infrastructure into a powerful new civic landmark.
For more information, visit publicartfund.org