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God of Death Arrives at Denver Airport

Remember that Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck ‘90s film Armageddon?  About heroic and crusty oil rig workers charged with blowing up an asteroid before it crashed to earth?  Cruelly, it was shown on a particularly turbulent flight I took across the Atlantic.  As my stomach lurched with every sudden drop in altitude and I watched actors struggle to land on a Texas-sized asteroid hurtling through space, I wondered just who had thought that film was a good fit with air travel.

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Such thoughts occurred again today as I read that the Denver Airport (DIA) has erected a 26-foot statue of Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death and the afterlife, outside the terminal.  The sculpture was erected last Wednesday to promote an exhibit on Egypt’s King Tut, Tutankhamun: The Golden King & the Great Pharaohs, which opens June 29 at the Denver Art Museum.


No elegant cat sculpture or decorative stalk of papyrus.  Not even a coiled asp.  Nope. DIA wants you to come face-to-face with the Egyptian god of death before you meet those cheerful TSA agents and board your flight.

This questionable art decision is only the latest in the airport’s controversial history.  Its oft-delayed 1994 opening and a high turnover of contractors during airport construction led to conspiracy theorists to wonder what nefarious elements were being hidden by the planning commission.  A mural near the baggage claim area has been interpreted as having Nazi imagery.  Another controversial sculpture at the airport, Mustang, fell and killed its creator, Luis Jimenez, when being erected.  

The obvious joke is irresistible: Terminal art, indeed.


Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo of sculpture being installed by Ben McKee; courtesy of 9News.com and Dan Boniface.

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