Explore Art at Los Angeles International Airport

Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" (detail) on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" (detail) at LAX | Photo: LAWA

Art exhibitions have been part of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) since the 1990s, although it wasn’t until the early 2000s that a formal Art Program began to take shape with regular showings and commissions of public art. Today, there’s art in most of the airport’s terminals, and ultimately you will be able to find exhibits in all of them.

Art can provide a moment of joy for weary travelers, who may have just emerged from long flights or are in the midst of a lengthy layover. At LAX, the art on view is also a way for people to connect with the city they are either about to enter or are preparing to leave.

Nearly all of the works you can view inside the terminals come from Los Angeles artists. “We feel that it’s really important that we reflect what artists are doing and thinking here in the city,” says Sarah Cifarelli, the Art Program Director at LAX.

The themes the artists explore are diverse. “We like to think of ourselves as a little experimental, meaning that we like to welcome all kinds of ideas from artists, and artists will come up with all kinds of ideas,” says Cifarelli.

“A lot of times, they’re really inspired by the architecture of the airport and what’s happening here,” says Cifarelli. “It’s a chance for them to stretch their practice a little bit, try something new and think about the airport as a jumping off point for new themes or ideas that they’re exploring in their work.”

LAX Theme Building
Theme Building at LAX | Photo: Wikipedia

LAX began operating in October 1928 and has been expanded and renovated a number of times, including its current multi-billion dollar modernization project. The airport is also commonly associated with Mid-Century Modern design, in part due to the iconic, atomic-style Theme Building by noted architect Paul Revere Williams that's situated near the parking structures. There are visual references to that era of art and architecture seen in various artworks throughout the airport.

Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" exhibit on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 is exhibiting works by Bia Gayotto, Erin Miller Wray, Jamie Scholnick, Lia Halloran, Peter Wu+, Renée A. Fox, Tofer Chin and Tony DeLap.

Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" panel on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" at LAX | Photo: LAWA
Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" panel on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Jamie Scholnick, "Layered Histories" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

"Layered Histories"
Located on the Arrivals Level of Terminal 1, Jamie Scholnick’s exhibition, Layered Histories: Artwork for the Expo/Crenshaw Metro Station reveals the sights of South Los Angeles to travelers waiting for their luggage. Scenes of children playing and a backyard BBQ merge with nighttime scenes and landmarks like the Felix Chevrolet sign. The mixed media collages were made in collaboration with photographer Sally Coates and based on a year’s worth of interviews with locals.

The artwork is the basis for Scholnick’s permanent installation at the Metro K Line Expo/Crenshaw Station. On view at LAX until the summer of 2024, these panels offer travelers a glimpse of the city before they step outside of the airport.

Erin Miller Wray, "Bird’s Eye View" mural on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Erin Miller Wray, "Bird’s Eye View" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

"Bird’s Eye View"
In the Connecting Hallway of the Departures Level, Erin Miller Wray’s Bird’s Eye View mural, which travelers can view through 2024, is inspired by the landscapes that are visible from airplane windows during a flight.

Lia Halloran, "Your Body is a Space That Sees" installation on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Lia Halloran, "Your Body is a Space That Sees" at LAX | Photo: LAWA
Lia Halloran, "Your Body is a Space That Sees" installation on view in Terminal 1 at LAX
Lia Halloran, "Your Body is a Space That Sees" (detail) at LAX | Photo: LAWA

"Your Body is a Space That Sees"
On view post-security at Gate 9 through the spring of 2024, Your Body is a Space That Sees is a series of large cyanotypes by artist Lia Halloran that pays tribute to women astronomers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sarah “Buckley” Samiami, "A Place for Us All" on view in Terminal 3 at LAX
Sarah “Buckley” Samiami, "A Place for Us All" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

Terminals 2-3

Lia Halloran's "Your Body is a Space That Sees" series continues at Terminals 2-3, along with works by Eve Fowler, Krysten Cunningham, Renée Petropoulos, Sarah "Buckley" Samiani and Timothy Nolan.

"A Place for Us All"
If you’re in the Departures Level Lobby of Terminal 3, look for A Place for Us All by Sarah “Buckley” Samiami. On view until 2026, Samiami’s hand-painted mural is inspired by the movement of people through LAX.

"Luminaries of Light and Space" in Terminal B at LAX
"Luminaries of Light and Space" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

Tom Bradley International Terminal

Also known as Terminal B, Tom Bradley International Terminal features works by Ball-Nogues Studio, Diana Thater, Mark Bradford, Meriem Bennani, Pae White, Refik Anadol, Sharon Louise Barnes, Trinh Mai and two installations curated by Dublab.

Trinh Mai, "Arise. Shine. Thy Light is Come." in Terminal B at LAX
Trinh Mai, "Arise. Shine. Thy Light is Come." (detail: silver-breasted broadbill) | Photo: LAWA
Trinh Mai, "Arise. Shine. Thy Light is Come." in Terminal B at LAX
Trinh Mai, "Arise. Shine. Thy Light is Come." (detail: red-winged blackbird) | Photo: LAWA

"Arise. Shine. Thy Light is Come."
Walk through the Mezzanine Hallway on the Departures Level and you'll come across Arise. Shine. Thy Light is Come. by Trinh Mai. In this hand-painted mural, which ticketed passengers can see through 2025, local songbirds like the California scrub jay and red-winged blackbird are depicted alongside international birds like the Vietnamese greenfinch and the silver-breasted broadbill from Cambodia.

De Wain Valentine, "Portal Blue" in Terminal B at LAX
De Wain Valentine, "Portal Blue" at LAX | Photo: LAWA
Hap Tivey, "Flame" in Terminal B at LAX
Hap Tivey, "Flame" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

"Luminaries of Light and Space"
At the West Gates of Terminal B, travelers can view Luminaries of Light and Space, an homage to mid-20th century California. A collaboration between LA-based online radio station Dublab and LAX, Luminaries of Light and Space is designed by Dublab Creative Director Eli Welbourne and guest curator Laura Whitcomb of Label Curatorial.

The exhibition brings together a collection of pieces from the 1960s and '70s by artists like De Wain Valentine and Peter Alexander; along with contemporary works reflective of the Light and Space movement by Helen Pashgian, Hap Tivey and Gisela Colón.

Dublab, "The Orchestrina" in Terminal B at LAX
Dublab, "The Orchestrina" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

"The Orchestrina"
Next to Luminaries of Light and Space is Dublab’s ambient sound installation, The Orchestrina. With concept and direction by Eli Welbourne and curation by Alejandro Cohen, Mark “Frosty” McNeill, Lottie Rippon and Welbourne, the project compiles original works from 30 local artists with varied music backgrounds in the 1,000-foot passenger tunnel that connects the West Gates with Tom Bradley International Terminal.

“We wanted [The Orchestrina] to be something that doesn’t just play over and over, something that is always evolving,” Cohen explains. The contributors - who range from Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh to professional whistler Molly Lewis - were asked to create pieces in C major at 120 beats per minute. The sound clips are digitally combined in a multitude of ways, ensuring that you won’t hear the same piece twice.

If you listen carefully while moving through the tunnel, you might notice sounds of LA nature in the mix, thanks to field records that were made for the sound installation. “We wanted to keep it local,” says Cohen. “We wanted to welcome people, or say farewell to people as they depart, with some sounds from Los Angeles."

Mark Bradford, "Bell Tower" in Terminal B at LAX
Mark Bradford, "Bell Tower" at LAX | Photo: LAWA
Peter Wu+, "Wonderland II" in Terminal 1 at LAX
Peter Wu+, "Wonderland II" at LAX | Photo: LAWA

There’s an element of surprise with the Art Program at LAX. There’s enough art spread throughout the campus where you are likely to see something on your trip to the airport, but what you will see is dependent on why you’re there. While some exhibits are in public areas of LAX, others are tucked in spaces where only ticketed passengers can venture.

Celebrate 10 years of Mark Bradford’s massive Bell Tower sculpture hanging over the TSA screening area while saying goodbye to visiting friends and family at Tom Bradley International Terminal. Or wander through a connector hallway in Terminal 1 and take in the videos and prints of Peter Wu+’s Wonderland II, on view until spring of 2024.

You might only have the chance to glimpse at one or two pieces while racing to catch a flight. Next visit, come early for a coffee, or linger in a terminal during an Uber surge to explore a few of the stunning exhibitions on view at LAX.