Five New Public Artworks Debut at San Francisco International Airport’s New Terminal 2


Media contact:

Kate Patterson, San Francisco Arts Commission

Tel: 415/252-4638 E:


Janet Echelman's proposal, "Every Beating Second" for the recompose area at SFO's new Terminal 2. Photo: Bruce Damonte

Janet Echelman's, "Every Beating Second" for the recompose area at SFO's new Terminal 2. Photo: Bruce Damonte

SAN FRANCISCO, February 10, 2011 – San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Luis R. Cancel are pleased to announce that with the opening of San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) newly remodeled Terminal 2 this April, the Arts Commission will add five new public artworks to its acclaimed airport collection. SFO has long been home to one of the most important and valuable public art collections in the country. With the renovation of the Airport’s Terminal 2 (T2), formerly the Central Terminal, the SFAC’s Public Art Program received approximately $3.7 million in art enrichment funds for new commissioned work as well as the reinstallation of 20 works already in the airport collection, some of which were historically sited in the terminal.

“World-class art is a part of the fabric of everyday life in San Francisco, and what better way to set the stage for our visitors than with a museum-quality art collection at our gateway,” said Mr. Cancel. “Travelers passing through T2 will be delighted and amazed by the variety, scale and creativity of the new artworks, and longtime residents and airport patrons will enjoy seeing some of the older works from the collection recontextualized in the new space.”

The $388 million renovation of T2 will be completed in April, with the first flights commencing on April 14. The renovation of T2 enabled the SFAC’s Public Art Program to commission bold and arresting artworks of the same scale as the surrounding architecture. Working closely with airport staff and Gensler, the project’s architect, the Arts Commission developed an art program plan that called for commissioning three large signature artworks for the terminal’s glass façade, entry lobby mezzanine area and the post-security recompose area. In addition, two interactive artworks were commissioned for two children’s play areas located near the gates.

“We are delighted to set such a beautiful stage at T2 for this world-class collection of art,” said John L. Martin, director of San Francisco International Airport. “SFO’s exhibits and art collection are always named by passengers as one of the reasons they love coming through the airport. It is thrilling to see T2’s exhibits underway.”

The selected artists, several of whom had extensive experience working on large-scale public art projects, represent a variety of backgrounds and artistic practices. Acclaimed public artist Norie Sato designed a site-specific installation for the terminal’s façade. Created with laminated glass panels and spanning two 16’ x 150’ areas, Air Over Under illustrates the dual experience of being under or over clouds when flying in a plane. Kendall Buster’s Topograph consists of two 24’x 24’x16’ conversant sculptural forms suspended above the departure lobby. The project reflects the artist’s ongoing interest in the merging of natural and built environments and her investigations into forms that operate at once as landscape and architecture. Janet Echelman adds color and movement to the post-security recompose area with three woven sculptural forms suspended from the ceiling that are reminiscent of both clouds and sea creatures moving through a “sky ocean.” A patterned terrazzo floor reflects the shapes of the hanging sculptures, like shadows cast by overhead clouds. This is the first airport commission for Echelman and Buster.

Walter Kitundu and Charles Sowers, both of whom work at the Exploratorium, were selected to create installations for the children’s play areas. For his first public art commission, Kitundu created a group of interactive artworks that are designed to offer travelers of all ages a playful oasis. Using high-quality veneer plywood, which he hand-stained, Kitundu created two benches shaped like bird wings that double as musical instruments. Behind the benches is a mural depicting local birds based on his own photographs. Creating a delightful dance of rising and falling mechanical “butterflies”, Sowers’ Butterfly Wall is an interactive kinetic sculpture that is activated by the viewer. Using a series of hand cranks, the viewer can raise the butterflies, which are attached to a loop of transparent belting, to the ceiling; once there, it flutters down to the bottom.

In addition to commissioning and purchasing new artwork for T2, the Arts Commission made it a priority to reinstall artwork in the airport’s collection that was historically sited in T2 or that was in storage. When T2 was rebuilt as an international terminal in 1983, three major sculptures by acclaimed international artists Arnoldo Pomodoro, Rufino Tamayo and Seiji Kunishima were purchased/commissioned. Pomodoro’s Cilandro Costruito will be reinstalled on level one and Tamayo’s Conquest of Space will be sited at the north end of the International Terminal drop-off, near the BART entrance. Kunishima’s Stacking Stones will occupy its original location, near the baggage claim area, along with the companion paintings by Marc Katano that historically flanked the sculpture.

Another important component of the T2 public art program is the reinstallation of three beautiful tapestries by Mark Adams that have been in storage for over 20 years. The tapestries, which will be placed in the greeters lounge, depict garden imagery from local San Francisco and Bay Area sites. San Francisco artist Dan Snyder’s joyous Welcome Wall, which was originally commissioned for the old International Terminal arrivals area until it was displaced, will be returned to the T2 arrivals area. In addition to the Marc Katano paintings that flank the Kunishima work, paintings by important Bay Area artists such as Joan Brown, Willard Dixon, Roy de Forrest, Hassel Smith, Sam Tchakalian, Wade Hoefer and others will also be reinstalled.

Travelers will be able enhance their experience of the public art at T2 by accessing behind-the-scenes information and interviews with the artists via a Guide by Cell audio tour. Produced by Earprint Productions, the audio tour highlights all of the works at T2. Content will be accessible by dialing a local number, (650) 352-4331, and a podcast of the audio content will also be available at

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