I’ve been to the Delta Sky Club as a civilian countless times, but nothing could have prepared me for what the airline had up its sleeve for its first-ever presence at Art Basel.
At the JFK Delta Sky Club on Dec. 6, I was ushered into a roped-off section where I found a group of people who were very clearly on their way to Miami’s art destination. Leather jumpsuits, chartreuse sweater sets, and tie-dye platform boots let the rest of the Sky Club members know we meant business, practicality be damned.
After snacking and sipping on tropical, Miami-centric flavors like ceviche, peach and mango mimosas, and a deconstructed key lime pie (not to mention tiny paint palettes with dips instead of pigments), we were ushered to our gate, which looked like any other in the Delta terminal — save for the bubblegum-pink carpet and a step-and-repeat. While NewJeans and Caroline Polachek blasted during mini photoshoots, I looked over at the other gates and saw the confused faces of passengers who were probably wondering what the hell was going on.
The next leg of our Delta journey: a private charter flight to Miami, during which works from their gallery at Basel were projected across the overhead bins. The experience reminded me of photos of travelers I’ve seen from the ‘60s and ‘70s, back when airlines respected people: tablecloths, real cutlery, plus a gin and guava juice cocktail meant to look like the “beautiful Miami sunsets.” Forty-five minutes into watching Muriel’s Wedding, I realized this was the first time I’ve flown without hearing a baby cry.
Fast forward a few days to the opening of Delta’s Open Air Gallery, held in an industrial space that would have sent an aviation geek reeling. The space was filled with works by local Miami artists, each incorporating an element of a plane, from photographer and twins Elliot & Erick Jiménez’s use of windows to 3D-animator-turned-sculptor Olivia Pedigo’s take on engine propellers. Artists were encouraged to explore Delta’s “boneyard” — where the airline sends its out-of-commission jets to rest in Arkansas (and my next dream destination) — to find the perfect piece for their installation.
See photos of Delta’s Open Air Gallery below.