Airport wants to smooth over artwork controversy

The Indianapolis Airport Authority decided Friday morning to spend $105,000 on an effort to smooth over the controversy sparked by a 2011 decision to replace a popular piece of art with a video wall.

“This decision resulted in dissatisfaction expressed by some members of the public, the Indianapolis Arts Council, and certain elected officials within Marion County,” Executive Director Bob Duncan said in a memo to the authority.

The decision to remove James Wille Faust’s “Chrysalis” was made under former airport President John Clark.

Duncan would like to commission a new Faust work, “Wings in Flight,” to be hung on the limestone wall on the north side of the entrance to the terminal’s Civic Plaza.

“Chrysalis” was commissioned as part of the airport’s $4 million public art program. Although the airport was within its legal right to take down the piece, Faust was offended. Faust said he’d produced “Chrysalis” specifically for its location over a busy escalator with the understanding that it was a long-term installation.

“Chrysalis” remains in storage, as Faust and airport management couldn’t agree on a suitable new location, airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said. Discussions about how to remedy the situation have gone on for the past year.

 “We’re cognizant of the fact it’s a public space, and public art is widely appreciated,” Bertolini said.

The video board brings in about $100,000 a year in advertising revenue, Bertolini said. The advertising rotates with video art, which the airport commissions for $1,000 to $3,000, he said.

Faust’s proposed new work would consist of three 5-foot by 6-foot canvas panels painted in acrylic.

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