Films, shopping, computer games and remote working have been the in-flight norm for so long now that seemingly the strangest thing about Virgin Atlantic’s new Gallery in the Air is that sky-high art exhibitions haven’t happened before. In February, the airline will offer Upper Class passengers on its London-New York routes the opportunity to buy original, one-off artworks by the renowned British artist Ben Eine – at 35,000ft.
Eine shot to fame when David Cameron presented one of his artworks to President Obama on his first official state visit to the White House in 2010 – although the artist was already making a name for himself with colourful, typographic street art that brightened cities from Los Angeles to Stockholm, London to Tokyo.
Virgin Atlantic’s imaginative bid to conquer new frontiers with the world’s first commercial aerial gallery begins in the airport, where Upper Class passengers can admire some of Eine’s contemporary canvases in the clubhouses at Heathrow, JFK and Newark. They can then enjoy an on-board, virtual gallery tour of 10 specially created artworks (£2,500 to £15,000) from the comfort of their seats. An accompanying short film offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Eine’s creative process.
Buyers can secure the works by placing a 25 per cent deposit with the cabin crew; Eine’s studio will then contact them within 60 days to complete the purchase and arrange direct delivery of their chosen piece.
In addition, Eine’s pixilated portrait of Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson demonstrates the potential for commissions. “My philosophy through all my work, be it on canvas or on the street, is about pushing boundaries, so I jumped at the chance to be part of the first-ever Gallery in the Air,” says Eine. “We have created a completely original way of appreciating and buying art – a new frontier for the industry.”
Indeed, this is just the start for the mile-high gallery. Plans for further on-board collaborations with renowned artists are in the pipeline – or should that be jet stream?