Virgin Atlantic, the travel empire of UK billionaire Richard Branson, has recently launched what it calls "Gallery in the Air," the first art gallery that allows passengers to purchase art at 35,000 feet above sea level. The project, part of a £100 million initiative to revamp the company's upper class cabin, brings a whole new perspective to the tradition of duty free shopping.
Here's how "Gallery in the Air" will work:
The artwork will be on display across Virgin Atlantic clubhouses in the London Heathrow, JFK and Newark airports, where travelers will get their first glimpse of the available canvases. Then, once aboard the plane, passengers will have the opportunity to take a virtual tour of the pieces on sale, look at behind the scenes footage of how the art was made and, finally, make their pricey purchases. (Think Skymall meets art dealing, all taking place in the swanky luxury cabin of an airplane.)
The first artist to join the sky-high ranks of "Gallery in the Air" is Ben Eine, a London-based painter known for his neon street art creations in neighborhoods like Shoreditch and Brick Lane. His name rose to fame when Prime Minister David Cameron presented one of his artworks to President Obama during an official state visit. Now he's enjoying the spotlight afforded to him by Virgin founder, Branson, who told the Daily Mail: "I am a huge fan of Ben’s work and like us, he does things differently and doesn’t follow the crowd."
A mural by British street artist Ben Eine on the side of a store in Stavanger, Norway, as part of the annual Nuart contemporary street and urban art festival. (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Eine's creations will cost anywhere between £2,500 and £15,000 ($3,967 and $23,799) and will be exhibited on Virgin Atlantic airplanes from February 1 until February 28. The one-of-a-kind canvases will feature bubble letter designs showcasing Branson-like phrases such as "Virgin on the impossible," "man and his machines," and "first century metropolis."
"We have created a completely original way of appreciating and buying art," Eine says of his participation with Virgin's unconventional gallery, "a new frontier for the industry."
(What's that, you ask? It's the sound of a thousand street artists throwing up.)
Let us know what you think of "Gallery in the Air" in the comments section, and scroll through the slideshow below for a look at 10 more unusual gallery locations.