Rainbow suitcase sculpture at DIA is by renowned muralist Detour
Denver muralist Detour is getting a spot in Denver International Airport’s infamous public art collection as part of its massive gate expansion project
Once it is complete, in 2025, the sculpture, titled “It’s Not What You Take, It’s What You Bring Back,” will be a rainbow-colored figure-eight made out of luggage that will hang over the B-East concourse ceiling. At 30 feet long, 20 feet wide and 10 feet high, it will be one of the largest works at a facility already well-known for its public art portfolio — itself bolstered by the popular, enduring conspiracy theories about the airport.
The sculpture is “inspired by the idea that life is always in perpetual motion with our luggage carrying the items we hold dear,” DIA wrote in a statement. “(It) will highlight the diverse community of Denver and surrounding areas through a companion website archiving each piece of up-cycled Colorado luggage as well as the neighborhood and history of the individual it came from.”
Detour, a.k.a. Thomas Evans, has made a name for himself in recent years with striking street and gallery art: building-sized murals; tributes depicting George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain; and portraits of David Letterman and Jay-Z (those last ones for Letterman’s Netflix series).
“I am proud that millions of travelers will discover this piece during their time at the airport,” Evans said in the statement. “By using Colorado luggage, the work is an open invitation to learn about each other. I wanted the work to strike a common chord amongst all travelers regardless of background.”
Funding for the mural, budgeted for $450,000, comes from the city’s 1% for Public Art Ordinance, which has supported some of Denver’s most iconic public art pieces. That includes Luis Jimenez’s Blue Mustang (a.k.a. Blucifer) and Lawrence Argent’s “I See What You Mean” (a.k.a. The Big Blue Bear, at the Colorado Convention Center). Each of those has doubled as marketing imagery and, in the case of “I See What You Mean,” merchandise for their respective hosts.
DIA officials were quick to note that no taxpayer dollars are used for any artwork at DIA. In this case, it’s part of an expansion that will add 39 new gates and increase capacity by 30%.
“But it’s also bringing new, energizing artwork to the new spaces,” said CEO Phil Washington in a statement.
Detour’s sculpture will be completed by 2025. Three more new, public artworks — to be announced later — will eventually be installed into the A-West, B-West and C-East expansions.
DIA has run afoul of its artworks and their creators in the past. In the most high-profile art dispute in its history, officials in 2017 butted heads with artists and the cultural commission charged with guiding the city’s public art over removing a trio of pieces. They were either costly or unfortunately stood in the way of renovations, DIA officials said at the time.
One was Michael Singer’s “Interior Garden,” which still sits above the trains on Concourse C. The tile-based artwork on the Jeppesen Terminal’s Great Hall, by artists Jaune Quick-To-See-Smith and Ken Iwamasa, was removed as part of Great Hall renovations.
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