Wellington Scoop

Check-In at City Gallery’s Wellington terminal

small> John Akomfrah The Airport 2016, © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery, London

< Press Release - City Gallery Wellington The complex relationship between contemporary art and the airport comes under the spotlight in Terminal at City Gallery Wellington. Opening on Saturday, this exhibition of international artists focuses on art made about the airport, not for it.

The airport was one of the iconic symbols of the modern age and is now a site where the contradictions and problems of the contemporary world circle and land. It has become a battle line in issues around globalisation, border control, state security, and individual freedom. Terminal reverses the usual relationship between art and the airport. It is more common to see art inside the airport, but what happens when the airport lands at the Gallery via contemporary art?

The exhibition features a stellar list of international artists: John Akomfrah (UK), Ed Atkins (UK), Marco Brambilla (Italy/US), Walead Beshty (US), Lauren Brincat (Australia), Thomas Demand (Germany), Simon Denny (New Zealand), Charles and Ray Eames (US), Andreas Gursky (Germany), Naeem Mohaiemen (Bangladesh/US), Adrian Paci (Albania), Alex Prager (US), and Taryn Simon (US).

The opening of the exhibition was planned in a pre-COVID world but postponed when New Zealand entered lock-down. When the team returned to the Gallery and began preparing for the exhibition, it was clear it had new meaning. Curator Aaron Lister says “Our relationship to the airport fundamentally changed over lock-down. No one is flying internationally, borders are closed, the aviation industry is grounded. The work now reads differently—there is a new fissure.”

The work in Terminal exhibition upsets or intervenes within the typical experience of the airport and in many ways is perfectly timed for the new travel reality. The global pandemic has intensified the key themes of migration, globalisation, and the ethics and politics of flight that this exhibition holds. The artists address the airport as a site, form, or symbol by challenging its iconography and processes. Terminal includes parodies of airport security instruction videos, photographs developed by the x-ray baggage scanner, a performance staged on the runway of Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, photographs of confiscated objects at JFK Airport, and two films set in an abandoned airport in Athens.

Lister says “I followed the art. I realised that a lot of the artists or work that has stuck with me recently was based on the airport. There is a reason why many contemporary artists are using the airport as subject or even as site—it opens onto some many key issues of our age.”


Opens 15 August – 14 February 2021

Open daily 11am – 5pm

City Gallery Wellington, Te Ngākau Civic Square

Free admission


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