The unusual artwork featuring giant sculptures of ants crawling along the ceiling and the wall at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been taken down.
Atlanta airport spokesman Reese McCranie said the ant artwork entitled “Brute Neighbors” came down from the Terminal North baggage claim area last week as the airport prepares for a modernization of the terminal. The construction work is expected to take five to eight years.
The attention-getting, sometimes loved and occasionally misunderstood ants have been well-known among Atlantans and others familiar with the world’s busiest airport.
The airport commissioned the piece by Atlanta artist Joe Peragine in 2001.
Peragine is upset with the way the airport removed the artwork.
“The fact that I was not contacted is very strange,” said Peragine, who lives in DeKalb County and teaches at Georgia State University, adding that he was involved with taking down the ants and putting them back up during past terminal renovations. “I don’t understand what the urgency was to take it down now…. [It] seems malicious to me.”
Peragine wrote on his Facebook page that he was not invited to oversee the removal and that maintenance workers removed the artwork, and has gotten a number of comments in response. “There are a lot of people who are mad or sad,” Peragine said.
When asked whether it’s possible that the ants will be reinstalled afterward or in another location, McCranie said: “It’s possible.”
McCranie said the artwork is being kept in a temperature-controlled storage area.
Peragine said he wants to ensure the piece is in good condition and would like to see it put back up in the terminal.
“Even people that don’t know art, they know the ants,” Peragine said. “Certainly my emotion to [the piece] coming down is tied to that.”
He said when Ant-Man was being filmed in Fayetteville a couple of years ago, “a bunch of people came in from Hollywood that were going to be stationed in Atlanta for the length of the movie production and they thought the ants were put up to welcome them.”
The actual story behind the ants is that Peragine was inspired by searching for bugs under a rock with his young son. The title comes from a chapter in Walden by Henry Thoreau.
The roughly 200 ants, made of cast polyurethane with telescoped copper tubing legs, are each 12 to 14 inches long and stood 8 to 10 inches high. They have a glossy automotive finish, which “comments as to how much Atlanta is a mobile city, and the car is so important,” Peragine said.
The ants, according to Peragine, are a metaphor for the millions of passengers at the world’s busiest airport.
“I made it for that spot” in the terminal, said Peragine, who is now 54. “I just thought the location was so perfect, because the way we move through the airport and everybody is just scurrying through, and people are herded through, in a way.”