Airports, Gregory says, are incredibly dusty places. Just imagine the enormous flow of people, all taking off and putting on their coats and shoes, opening their bags, rushing through, spilling drinks, leaving crumbs and dead skin flakes everywhere. For comparison: the Louvre, the most visited museum in the world, welcomed 10.2 million people in 2018, Sea-Tac saw 49.8 million. “The dust that generates from such a massive traffic flow through here, it gets caught in things like art,” Gregory says.
When Gregory noticed that Larry Kirkland’s 1992 hanging wooden and glass canoe “hadn’t been dusted for years,” he got certified to use the scissor lift and, along with an art handler, cleaned the piece himself.
“Those [glass] elements that were once kind of foggy are [now] clean,” Gregory says of the canoe’s glass cutouts of plants and animals. “When the light hits it right, you see the sun reflect those elements on the ground — which is what the artist intended.”
Gregory hopes to dust off the collection in the figurative sense, too. Like most other art institutions, the airport’s collection skews toward white and male artists. “Red Sand Project: Border US-MX,” the airport’s first-ever temporary exterior installation, was a step in that direction, he says. The installation, conceived by New York-based artist Molly Gochman, can be seen by plane passengers and light rail commuters until early February 2020.