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NEWS Last modified on July 27, 2015

LAX unveils incredible new works of art

All photos courtesy of Kellie Barrie/PanicStudio L.A. All photos courtesy of Kellie Barrie/PanicStudio L.A.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has installed three major public art commissions in the newly redesigned Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The giant works of art are the largest ever permanent public art commissions made by LAX and the City of Los Angeles and are called Bell Tower, Air Garden and ΣLAX.

“The Tom Bradley International Terminal is the gateway between Los Angeles and the rest of the world, so this is an incredible opportunity to showcase our city’s cultural vitality and innovative spirit on an international stage,” says Sarah Cifarelli, airport art manager. 

“With these bold, ambitious works, we can influence and elevate visitors’ experience of Los Angeles as a world-class cultural destination.”

Designed by renowned architect Curt Fentress, the new terminal features abundant natural light, dramatic open spaces, and a flowing roofline inspired by the Pacific Ocean.

“In many ways, these commissions represent a watershed moment for public art in Los Angeles,” says Felicia Filer, director of the public art division of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).

“When the City established its Public Percent for Art Program 25 years ago, public art was often treated as an afterthought – and Los Angeles was not widely recognised as the cultural destination it is today.

“And here we have world-renowned, Los Angeles-based artists who have created three magnificent works that have already become iconic symbols of this wonderful public space.” 

LAX’s Cifarelli adds: “Members of the oversight committee encouraged us to be bold, and to challenge preconceived notions about what public art is or should be. 

“With their guidance, we decided to commission ambitious, large-scale works that would be defining features of the new terminal’s design.”`


Located on the mezzanine level of the terminal’s Departures Hall, Mark Bradford’s monumental sculpture Bell Tower can be viewed by the general public and ticketed passengers alike.

Suspended from a skylight above the TSA security screening area, Bell Tower provides a prominent focal point for the vast hall and marks its transition from a public space to a restricted one. 

Bradford modelled the sculpture on a medieval bell tower, citing its dual purpose as both a civic gathering spot and a source of surveillance. 

The sculpture’s multi-layered, collage-like surface consists of 712 individual shaped panels cut from salvaged plywood and posters collected from construction sites throughout Los Angeles, which have been sanded and treated to create a more cohesive surface, leaving only abstracted traces of the original materials.`


In the heart of the terminal’s Great Hall, Air Garden is a large-scale sculptural installation by Ball-Nogues Studio.

As its name suggests, Air Garden appears an oasis amid the terminal’s bustling retail and concessions, filling the terminal’s north light well with a sinuous, dynamic cloud of colour.

The light well offers many distinct views of Air Garden, which drapes gracefully from the building’s ceiling down to the baggage claim area at ground level. 

As visitors disembark at TBIT, they are welcomed by Pae White’s artwork, ΣLAX.


Suspended above the terminal’s north and south ‘sterile corridors’ leading international passengers to customs, according to the artist this linear sculpture inverts the idea of functional infrastructure, turning security into art and art into security by deploying an alternative system of baroque ‘P’-shaped brackets strung with or without brightly coloured cordage. 

The work consists of 23.86 miles of custom-dyed cordage in three distinct colour palettes that pay homage to the coloured-tyled mosaics by Charles D. Kratka, located in Terminals 3, 4, and 6.

The work also includes 7,484 gold brackets – eleven of which are actual 14K gold.  


Attempting to identify the actual gold brackets offers passengers a playful distraction from the long journey to customs. 

Bell Tower, Air Garden, and ΣLAX were funded by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) through the City of Los Angeles’ Public Percent for Public Art Program, and administered by the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

The programme dedicates one percent of the construction cost of the city’s capital improvement projects to contribute enduring, contemporary art experiences at the city’s public facilities.

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Joe Bates

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