San Francisco International Airport unveils glass murals at Terminal 2

Two hand-painted glass panels, each 16 feet high and 150 feet across, have been installed on the facade of San Francisco International Airport’s new Terminal 2.

The artwork was conceived by Seattle-based artist Norie Sato, who took photographs of cloud formations from an airplane and recreated the images on 240 rectangular sections of double-layered glass that comprise the massive panels.

Sato was one of five artists selected by the San Francisco Arts Commission to create new works of public art that will be on permanent display in the airport’s $383 million Terminal 2, scheduled to open in April, SFO spokesman Mike McCarron said.

“I love working with glass,” Sato said, standing in front of the facade on Wednesday. “The color always changes.”

The rear layer of glass was painted with broad sections of color, mostly variations of blue to mimic the sky, Sato said.

A second layer was painted with white pixelated images of clouds, fog, a gull, and the wing of an airplane, meant to represent nature, machines and their place in the sky, Sato said.

“The whole idea has to do with ‘Are you above or are you below,’” Sato said. “It plays with all those different levels.”

The two layers create a contiguous three-dimensional transparent image that changes with variations in light throughout the day.

“It’s amazing how many permutations you get,” Sato said.  

San Francisco’s Art Enrichment Ordinance, one of the first in the country when it was adopted by the Board of Supervisors on 1969, requires that 2 percent of the total construction costs of any civic building project be allocated for public art.

In 1999, SFO became the first U.S. airport to become an accredited museum by the American Association of Museums, McCarron said.  

SFO Museum manages the airport’s rotating exhibits and a permanent collection of more than 4,000 works of art estimated to be worth more than $90 million.

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