The artwork represented in the Denver, Colorado airport (DIA) has been considered controversial for years. Although the Denver International Airport has a world-renowned art collection, one of its longest standing art contributions is a topic of unrest due to its imagery.
The series of murals were first commissioned in 1994 and were done by the artist Leo Tanguma. They were placed in the west and east wings of the airport near baggage claims, so they are hard for travelers to avoid. Right outside the Great Hall, guests can see the murals which were split into two pieces because they are separated by a doorway.
Tanguma’s Artistry for the Airport Murals
Tanguma has completed seven murals for the Denver International Airport since its opening. Among the most controversial (and permanent) pieces are, “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “Children of the World Dream of Peace.” Tanguma remains an enigma for his uniquely inspired murals that are rumored to be creepy and to some, even satanic.
He depicts juxtaposing realities about the condition of the world (either catastrophic or euphoric) in these murals to bring attention to international turmoil. Themes of peace, multiculturalism and environmentalism are represented in his pieces.
Tanguma was commonly known for depicting socio-economic issues, but he also created his mural pieces for the airport in the 1990s, which was a time when shock was used to catalyze social critique.
While Tanguma has yet to make an official statement regarding the conspiracies surrounding his art, many have assumed that his viewpoint is clear in the Denver International Airport’s online statement. Its website expresses that the first part of his mural “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” depicts children expressing sorrow for the destruction of life, while the second half depicts humanity rehabilitating nature and camaraderie.
“Children of the World Dream of Peace” is a mural that follows a similar composition, with scenes of destruction that transition to a scene seemingly at peace. Since his pieces have not been officially removed (other than for temporary construction purposes), it is clear that the common consensus on the pieces is acceptance, although there are still conspiracies.
The Murals at Denver Airport and Conspiracy Theories
Art and beauty are intentionally subjective, so it is no surprise that this Denver airport has received slack for showcasing controversial art in such central locations. The negative feedback about Tanguma’s art concerns the apocalyptic imagery that he used to bring attention to socio-economic issues like war, environmental destruction and famine. These bleak depictions of trees burning, animals stuck in glass cases, deceased children and an overall setting of ruins (on the first half of the murals) all point to an apocalyptic or mass extinction event, which is understandably a bit morbid for the airport. Some have even said these images are predictions of future events or, perhaps, a warning.
The artist also showcases the unity of the human race, so the murals also represent positive potential. Placing images of harmony and healing in a frequently traveled area makes a statement and is a highlight of the murals at Denver’s airport.
While the murals are up for interpretation, travelers can always appreciate the talent and scale of the art while visiting the Denver International Airport.