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We were lucky enough to be invited to the official press unveiling of Heathrow’s brand new Terminal yesterday, and the launch of the new ‘SlipStream‘ Artwork by Richard Wilson, which sits proudly in front of the building in a covered walkway connecting the rest of Heathrow and Terminal 2′s new car park to the check in and arrivals areas of the terminal.
The artwork will be seen by up to 20 million passengers a year that pass through the terminal (sadly not to those who will be using the new Star Alliance hub for connecting flights).
Weighing in at 77 tonnes, the behemoth of a sculpture seemingly defies gravity as it floats suspended in the covered outdoor space equalling that of the turbine hall at the Tate modern, open to the elements the sculptures twisting aluminium form is inspired by the world of aviation and captures the imagined flight path of a small stunt plane (the Edge 540, similar to those used in Red Bull’s Air race).
Richard Wilson embraces the design as a “metaphor for travel”, and the sculpture aptly mimics Heathrow’s past chaotic travel experience with its convoluted twists and turns and almost grotesque appearance. There are perhaps a few elephants in the room which are left unaddressed.
Why a stunt plane, and why put such a design of a plane that is quite frankly, out of control, in front of passengers, some of whom may be nervous before their flight. But it is just such an arresting image that has often been sought after in art forms, to confront people’s perceptions and turn something ugly and chaotic into something of beauty and order.
Mr. Wilson agrees “This isn’t an art work by just myself. Over 80 people were involved in this project” and as it was designed and assembled in Hull, there was the issue of transporting the structure into the terminal, smuggled across some of the world’s busiest runways.
“After over two years of hard work I am delighted to see Slipstream finally unveiled in Heathrow’s new Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal today. Slipstream is my largest sculpture to date and I have enjoyed the challenge of working on such a monumental scale and also working alongside such inventive engineers to realise this work.” Richard Wilson continues, ” and I feel honoured that Slipstream will go on to be seen by millions of visitors travelling to and from the UK each year.”
We really like Slipstream, and whilst it has seemingly been put together as if a flight of fancy, (Even Richard – jokingly – described how he wanted the piece of work in early conceptual meetings – ‘by rolling a plane stuck in a hamster ball along the floor’) it has developed meaning within its atmosphere, a level of depth and being out in the open, will fade and change as time erodes away at the aluminium structure riveted together as if the skin of a plane.
So next time you are headed through the terminal (which is being officially opened on the 23rd June 2014 by Her Majesty The Queen – although United will start flying out of the terminal on the 4th June) why not take a little time to stop and stare at some of the Britain’s most modern and striking artwork, right on the doorstep of the UK.
You will be lucky enough to experience the new terminal if you travel with any Star Alliance Carrier (Adria, Aegean, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian, Eva, LOT, Lufthansa, Scandanvian, Singapore Airlines, South African, Swiss, Thai, Turkish and United) and also Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic Little Red and Germanwings.