Could airports be the new shrines of public art in India? The philosophies of a progressive nation are the driving force behind the new art works being incorporated into the New Delhi and Mumbai air transport hubs. Art-interested travellers are in for a visual treat.

Maqbool Fida Hussain (1915-2011), Indira Gandhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi at the Check-in Hall

M.F. Hussain, 'Indira Gandhi', Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi, at the Check-in Hall.

Checking in at New Delhi

“Expressive India”

GMR-DIAL, the private developers of Delhi’s international airport, wanted not only to build a state-of-the-art transport hub, but also to take the architecture, design and planning a step further. The vision was to fill the third terminal (T3) with art that revealed a sense of place, infused the public space with a distinct Indian identity and stuck in the minds of travellers.

Incubis Consultants, India’s premier design consultancy firm, and US-based strategic brand consulting firm Landor Associates combined their local and global expertise to create an interior design plan for the airport that they dubbed “Expressive India”. The aim of the plan was to convey to travellers a modern country deeply rooted in tradition, with artwork that is inspired by and makes reference to distinctive Indian motifs from music, dance and monuments. Some of the pieces, such as M.F. Hussain‘s Indira Gandhi were simply remounted for inclusion, other bespoke installations were conceptualised by the Incubis-Landor design team and renowned artists were commissioned to create new works for specific areas in the airport.

What to look for, where to find it

The art program at T3 is ongoing, and new work will continue to be commissioned and installed. Below is a round up of the artwork currently installed in the terminal.

  • Celebration, a set of two murals by Paresh Maity, can be seen in the International Arrivals Node.
  • The Baggage Claim Hall is home to The Indian Odyssey, also by Paresh Maity.
  • Head to the “swing section” of the Canyon Wall, located in-between the domestic and international sections of the terminal, to take in M.F. Hussain’s Mural.
  • Indira Gandhi, also by M.F. Hussain, is hung in the Check-In Hall.
  • Hiranyagarbha – The golden womb/sun is a mural by Seema Kohli that can be seen by those passing through the International Departure Pier/Transfer Area.
  • Satish Gupta‘s Surya – The Resplendent One has been given a chunk of wall in the International Departure Pier Node.
Paresh Maity, The Indian Odyssey (detail), Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi, along Baggage Claim Hall.

Paresh Maity, 'The Indian Odyssey' (detail), Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi, along Baggage Claim Hall.

Paresh Maity’s two art works, titled The Indian Odyssey and Celebration respectively, are together made up of 58 panels that span a little less than 900 feet. Through these works, the artist strives towards a depiction of the colour, harmony, aesthetic beauty, landscape and people that mark the art and culture of India. Amit Gulati, Director of Incubis, notes that “the awesome work, unparalleled in scale, captures iconic vignettes from all parts of India, heightens travellers’ sense of anticipation and reinforces uniquely Indian memories.”

Paresh Maity, Celebration (detail), Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi along the International Arrivals Node.

Paresh Maity, 'Celebration' (detail), Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi, along the International Arrivals Node.

Another not-to-miss work is a set of murals called Hiranyagarbha – The golden womb/sun by Delhi-based contemporary artist Seema Kohli. A recent article in the Deccan Chronicle reports on a talk by Kohli at the National Gallery of Art during which she explains her interpretation of the womb in the paintings.

The sun is a golden womb. Everything surrounding it seems to have that rhythm. It has a positive energy, a light about it. While I was working with the concept, I started realising the rhythm around me and the fact that nothing is ‘non-living’.

The work can be found at the International Departure Node of T3.

Seema Kohli, Hiranyagarbha-The golden womb/sun (detail), Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi at the International Departure Pier, Transfer area.

Seema Kohli, 'Hiranyagarbha-The golden womb/sun' (detail), Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi, at the International Departure Pier, Transfer area.

Another artwork that asserts its presence in the check-in hall is the sculpture Surya – The Resplendent One, created by contemporary Indian artist Satish Gupta. As explained in information received from Incubis, Gupta’s sculpture takes inspiration from India’s rich past, especially the magnificent 11th century Chola bronzes of South India. The artist carries this tradition forward through art that is deeply rooted in the past but looking to the future with an open mind.

Surya-The Resplendent One, Satish Gupta, Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi at the International Departure Pier Node. Image courtesy of Incubis.

Satish Gupta, 'Surya-The Resplendent One', Indira Gandhi International Airport-Delhi, at the International Departure Pier Node. Image courtesy of Incubis.

Next frontier: Art at the Mumbai airport

With the exponential interest in the visual programme at the New Delhi airport, art lovers in India and abroad are awaiting the 2013 unveiling of a similar plan for Terminal 2 (T2) at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.

Rajeev Sethi, an internationally-known Indian curator and designer, has been named curator of T3 and has created a plan called “Liminus T2” that he believes will make Mumbai airport a landmark “museum” of the 21st century. “Airports are the new shrines of public art. Where else would you get so many footfalls?” Sethi is quoted as saying in an article on online Indian newspaper DNA. Sethi also said to the Sunday Guardian,

I am trying to make the airport experience memorable, to the point that people don’t mind missing their planes. There will be art from across India, spanning diverse regions and religions.

Some artworks have already been installed in the airport terminal, but the public’s focus is on an installation by internationally-renowned contemporary artist Anish Kapoor, the artist responsible for arguably the most-visited public artwork in the world, Chicago’s Cloud Gate.


Related Topics: art spacesIndian art venues, Indian artists

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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