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July 25, 2018

Art in transit

The Adelaide Airport's Universal Citizen exhibition showcases eight emerging South Australian artists in one of the state's most high-traffic public galleries.

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  • Pictures and words: Johnny von Einem
  • Artwork in image 1: Kaspar Schmidt Mumm
  • Artwork in image 2 and 8: Tracy Lymn
  • Artwork in image 3 and 6: Dan Whitey
  • Artwork in image 4: Aida Azin
  • Artwork in image 7: Harry Thring
  • Artwork in image 9: Emmaline Zanelli
  • Artwork in image 11: Positive Signs

The Adelaide Airport is a microcosm of Adelaide itself – right down to the constant redevelopment and the Coopers Alehouse pumping pale ale through its veins.

It is the perfect venue to showcase the talents of South Australia, and it would be hard to move through the terminal without noticing one or two favourite Adelaide businesses and buildings.

The first signal of home after disembarking QF675 from Melbourne (aside from the pilot warning to wind back your watch half an hour) is the huge image of SAHMRI sitting atop the ramp at Gate 22.


Universal Citizen officially launches at the Adelaide Airport from 5:30pm on Friday, 17 August.

The exhibition will run until 23 September.

See this map for information on where to find the exhibited works.

A little further down, at Gate 25, another series of glass panels are plastered with images of one of the Adelaide Central Market’s most precious gems, Say Cheese.

Bodies moving along the travelator further toward the end of the terminal are whisked past a Positive Signs mural.

Increasingly, the Airport’s well-lit walls are being used to display the works of local South Australian artists, and throughout SALA, independent curator Carollyn Kavanagh has decided to take a different curatorial approach.

Carollyn Kavanagh.

“It’s been [about] showing off Australia the first few years, looking at the Airport as a space where people are coming in and typically lots of Australian landscape, or there was a portrait show I did there as well,” she says.

“But this year I really wanted to show more experimental, younger, probably more dynamic work, and really hook into that whole idea of culture and cultural identity.”

The exhibition in the Airport, now in its seventh iteration, is this year called Universal Citizen, and brings together the work of emerging artists Aida Azin, Liam Bosecke, Tracy Lymn, Kaspar Schmidt Mumm, Brianna Speight, Harry Thring, Dan Withey and Emmaline Zanelli.

The concept came from Carollyn’s interest in Kaspar Schmidt Mumm’s work.

“I came into contact with Kaspar’s work several years ago and love what he does; he’s a performer, and he’s a curator, and he does these amazing workshops with kids,” she says.

“I knew a little bit about the ideas that underpin his thinking and his practice, and I just thought that would be an amazing theme for a show. So I built Universal Citizen around Kaspar’s thoughts, and just looked for other artists that do the same thing, that play with [similar] ideas.”

Artwork by Emmaline Zanelli.

The works range from painting, sculpture, photography, and computer generated imagery, and “it is supposed to be daring,” Carollyn says, “it is supposed to make people think a little bit more, and I think the airport have really embraced it.”

As a gallery space, the airport is incredibly high-traffic – on its busiest day last year, 32,698 passengers passed through the terminal – and so in terms of exposure, Universal Citizen is a great opportunity for the artists involved.

For Carollyn, the benefit of working with a client such as the Airport is in introducing the wider public to artists and works they might not otherwise have chosen to engage with.

“I love going to museums and public galleries myself of course, but I understand lots of people don’t, so it’s nice to put art in places where people aren’t expecting it,” she says.

“The airport is such a democratic space – everybody goes to the airport at some stage, whether you’re going somewhere or picking someone up – and I think there’s a lot of energy in public spaces.

“People, once they’ve settled and they’re waiting for their plane, or they’re waiting for their people to arrive, they have a bit of time, and I find that they’re a lot more curious than you expect.”

As CityMag wanders the terminal, we witness the artwork attracting glances from business travellers speeding to their gate, longer stares from family members waiting for sons, daughters and siblings, and travellers waiting for their planes, and at least one mother explaining Tracy Lymn’s photography to her six-year-old son.

Universal Citizen at the very least adds intrigue to what can sometimes be a monotonous transit experience, and in doing so introduces a more complete representation of what and who Adelaide is to people passing through. We are not just the iconic buildings and market stalls, but a mass of people, thoughts, and shifting identities – all of which is on display.

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