Got an Art Budget? Don’t Buy Art. Buy Video Walls as Art

Got an Art Budget? Don’t Buy Art. Buy Video Walls as Art

The merits of publicly funded art installations have been debated for millennia but one case in favor rests on a single question: how do we want to represent ourselves? Cities have powerful economic and cultural incentives to beautify their environment and countless arenas to do so, but one development that is of particular relevance to our interests is the evolving way cities have employed their art budgets for large-scale airport renovations. Most large construction projects, especially those commissioned by municipalities, include a set-aside portion of funds to be used as an art budget. With the vast majority of funding being dedicated to physical construction and technological enhancements, city arts councils have to be patient, deliberate, and efficient with their limited remaining resources. Airports across the country have initiated massive expansions in recent years and a trend has emerged with how these hubs have allocated their art budget; they aren’t buying art anymore, they’re buying canvases. Specifically, digital ones.

Pixels can be upgraded. Paint, not so much.

There are a few primary reasons for the growing adoption of video walls as art installations. In speaking with art directors from a few airports that have undergone (or are undergoing) big renovations, each expressed a desire to find an art solution that would last for at least a decade. Finding static art that makes an impression on passengers ten years past its install date is a challenge, especially within the confines of an airport concourse and an airport concourse art budget. Digital displays as art are slim enough to embed onto any wall or surface without jutting out into foot-trafficked areas and with service-based purchasing strategies, is something that will cost a good deal less than any static masterpiece of comparable size. Furthermore, a digital display is something that can be upgraded over time to keep its performance up-to-date. Using your art budget on a digital display allows you to have state-of-the-art technology today, tomorrow, and ten years from now.

Ignore Immobile, Demand Dynamic.

Static artwork may be captivating at first but once a viewer has seen it a few times, the art will recede into the background of their experience. This erosion of interest chips away at the art’s efficacy and could have negative consequences for whatever art budget passes next. How organizations use their art budget paints a picture of how they want audiences to view them, as well as how they view themselves. If audiences start to tune out, what does that say about you? When allocating your art budget need to consider not just what to represent about the values of your airport, city, and culture, but how to do so.

Static art loses its influence the moment an audience sees it for a second time. Charlotte Douglas International Airport recognized this pattern during their ongoing overhaul and opted to go in another direction with their art budget. The overarching endeavor is dubbed Destination CLT and it represents a $2.5 billion investment in airport renovations, but the art budget includes just a small segment of this funding. Rather than acquire an expensive piece of static art that audiences would ignore in two years and the airport would sell in five years, the Arts and Sciences Council for the city instead commissioned a “digital sculpture,” that would guarantee audiences never saw the same thing twice. The installation was pioneered to be a fusion of technology, art, and design, and it reflects both the interconnected community of North Carolina’s biggest city and its technological ascendance. Charlotte Douglas wanted to announce itself as an airport of the future; it’s fitting they opted against art of the past. Their newly renovated concourse is now dominated by a 140-foot long LED display that plays perpetually self-regenerating digital visuals influenced by the airport’s own passenger and flight data. Two additional displays dominate a separate atrium area nearby. You’ve seen a painting before. You’ve seen a sculpture before. But you’ve never seen these visuals before, and by design, you’ll never see it again.

Streamable art brings masterworks direct to you, instantly.

Dynamic digital content does not have to be as complex as Charlotte’s installation to render a video wall a more efficient use of art budget funds. High-quality display content is tough to come by, but with digitally streamable art galleries, “turning on instant atmosphere,” has never been easier. A digital rendering of a famous painting won’t equal the original, but what about 300 digital renderings? What about 1000? A space adorned with standard physical artwork will eventually grow tired as audiences tune out, and the cost of rotating unique museum-quality masterpieces is astronomical. An LED display solution with renewable digital art channels solves these problems in an affordable and versatile way.

Though an apt use for an art budget, digital displays aren’t restricted to exclusively showing art; they themselves can be the art, while serving other purposes, too. Consider “The Flower” found in Toronto’s Pearson Airport. The stunning LED feature dominates a central gathering area of Terminal 1 with its beauty while also serving the practical purpose of providing flight information and weather details to busy travelers. The LED feature has transformed what once was dead space into perhaps the most highly-trafficked location in the entire airport concourse, simultaneously branding the airport with the provincial symbol of the White Trillium flower. As the gateway to Canada’s largest city, it was imperative for Toronto Pearson to uphold the welcoming image of efficiency, artistic innovation, and cultural vibrancy that defines Toronto. In that pursuit, the Flower has proven an unmitigated success.

As modern airport design embraces the cultivation of an immersive and local sense of place, more and more airport arts directors are using their budgets to showcase the cultural and technological diversity of their communities. Airports across the globe have proven that the most efficient and effective way to do this is no longer to buy static artwork; it’s to invest in a digital canvas. To discover how top airports have used NanoLumens technology in their terminals, reach out to us today!