Northern Lights mural by Winnipeg artist John Graham is pictured at the original Winnipeg airport (CP)
A huge abstract mural that hung in the main concourse of Winnipeg's international airport for almost 50 years has been shipped to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa,
which plans to put it on permanent display. At the moment "it's in lots and lots of pieces," said assistant curator Molly McCullough.
Created out of aluminum, coloured Plexiglas and mosaic tiles by Winnipeg artist John Graham, Northern Lights was commissioned by the Department of Transport for the airport, which opened in 1964. The terminal closed in October and has been replaced by a new
building as part of an airport redevelopment project.
Over 20 metres wide and seven metres high, Northern Lights is an unusual acquisition for the Ottawa museum, McCullough said: "Our focus isn't art, it's science and technology and the culture around it."
But the mural is considered important as a component of the airport building boom that occurred across Canada in the 1950s and '60s. It is modernist in design just like the airport that contained it, and evokes a golden age for air travel -- "a time when people still dressed up to fly," McCullough said.
Another large work that was placed at the opposite end of the concourse, Eli Bornstein's Structurist Relief in 15 Parts, has found a home at the University of Manitoba, said Christine Alongi, director of communication for the Winnipeg Airports Authority.
Artworks were also commissioned for other Canadian airports, which were built to accommodate the new jet aircraft. "These buildings were almost like galleries or museums, because there was still this respect around flying, and they were big open beautiful buildings -- and now they had huge pieces of art on the walls."
Graham, who died in 2007, taught in the faculty of architecture at the University of Manitoba and served as president of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
Seeing the mural at the museum is bound to cause a sense of deja vu for some visitors. "I think it will provoke strong emotional responses from people -- you know, I-remember-when kind of responses," said McCullough, who hopes to have the work on display within two years. Northern Lights was donated to the museum by Transport Canada.
Northern Lights mural by Winnipeg artist John Graham is pictured at the original Winnipeg airport. (Greg McCullough/CP)