Slipstream – A new commission for Heathrow by Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson Slipstream
Richard Wilson’s Slipstream at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2

The sculptor who created the Pavilion’s 2012 roof installation “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea….”  reveals today his new commission for Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2, six weeks before it is open to the public.

Created by internationally renowned British artist Richard Wilson RA and curated by Mark Davy founder of public arts agency Futurecity, Slipstream is an ambitious artwork inspired by the world of aviation and combines precision engineering and specialised UK craftsmanship. The result is a flowing, twisting aluminium form; an imagined flight path of a Zivko Edge 540 stunt plane. Slipstream will be one of the longest permanent sculptures in Europe, measuring over 70 metres long and weighing 77 tonnes.

Stewart Drew, Director of the De La Warr Pavilion, says “We are delighted to congratulate Richard Wilson and Mark Davy at Futurecity on the opening of Slipstream at the new Heathrow Terminal 2. It’s brilliant to see Richard’s work at such an important gateway to the UK and that is so appropriate to his practice. As seen in the success of  his bus balancing on our roof, Richard once again demonstrates his extraordinary ability to connect with the public through the biggest of ideas. A major public commission of the work of this important British artist has been long overdue.

Slipstream will carve through the length of Terminal 2’s Covered Court and, like so many of Richard Wilson’s large-scale creations, responds to and is integrated within the building’s architecture; supported by four structural columns and suspended between two passenger walkways. The sculpture will be a striking focal point for the airport’s new building, situated by both departures and arrivals to greet passengers. It will be seen by 20 million visitors travelling through the terminal per year.

In 2010 Heathrow appointed the cultural agency Futurecity to develop an international art competition that could attract five renowned artists to provide ambitious proposals for an artwork that would explore the volume and architecture of the new Terminal 2. As a result, British artist Richard Wilson RA was selected to realise his exciting proposal for Slipstream.

Richard Wilson, one of Britain’s leading sculptors, is celebrated for his artistic interventions in architectural space and has exhibited extensively, both nationally and internationally. His best known works are the installation ‘20:50’, a sea of reflective sump oil, which is permanently installed in the Saatchi Collection; and his commissioned contribution to Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture 2008, ‘Turning the Place Over’, a vast ovoid section of a disused building façade which rotated to reveal the inside of its structure. He has represented Britain in the Sydney, Sao Paulo, Venice Biennials and Yokohama Triennial and has been nominated for the Turner Prize on two occasions.

Richard Wilson Slipstream
Richard Wilson stands next to Slipstream at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2

Slipstream’s design uses cutting-edge computer programming technology, usually employed by the aerospace industry, to accurately translate the volume of an aircraft’s movement through space. To make Slipstream a reality, Wilson enlisted structural engineers Price & Myers and specialist Hull-based fabricators Commercial Systems International (CSI). The sculpture was manufactured in Hull in 23 giant sections and transported, piece by piece, from Hull to Heathrow in June 2013.

Richard Wilson says “Slipstream is rooted in its location. This work is a metaphor for travel, it is a time-based work. It is art that moves in time and space coming from the past to the current, delivering different experiences at either end. Sensations of velocity, acceleration and deceleration follow us at every undulation of the form.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s Development Director, explained that “Heathrow is one of the few places where art, architecture and engineering come together in one space and we hope our passengers will enjoy Slipstream when they travel through Heathrow”

Heathrow Airport Media Centre

Richard Wilson's Hang On A Minute Lads. I've Got A Great Idea at DLWP
Richard Wilson’s Hang On A Minute Lads. I’ve Got A Great Idea at De La Warr Pavilion