Feb 7, 2020

Prince mural livens up MSP Airport’s Terminal 1

Prince fans have yet another tribute to the famous Minnesota-based artist at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

In January, a 16-foot by 24-foot mural of the music legend was installed on the Tram level of MSP’s Terminal 1 below the Blue and Red parking ramps and will be on display for a year.

"It’s almost like seeing him perform on stage," said Sam Fuentes, exhibitions coordinator for Arts@MSP, a program of the Airport Foundation MSP, who helped arrange and install the exhibit. "It's a perfect perspective."

It’s the second larger-than-life art installation at MSP to be displayed outside the rotating exhibit spaces at the airport (art scrolls by artist Anne Labovitz is the other) curated by Arts@MSP, whose mission is to enrich the experience of the traveling public through arts and culture.

"We want to bring art to as many locations and customers as possible at the airport," said Fuentes.

The work was created by artist Rock Martinez, who began his career as a graffiti artist in Tucson, Ariz., but has since become a well-known muralist in the tradition of Mexico-born artist Diego Rivera with studios in both Tucson and the Twin Cities.

“I'm a huge Prince fan – I grew up on old rock,” said the 40-year-old Martinez. “Prince and Michael Jackson were everything to me.”

Ode to Prince
The ode to Prince has its origins in a mural Martinez painted on a building at 26th and Hennepin avenues in Minneapolis in April 2016 shortly after Prince died.

“I started painting in the pouring rain and in less than five or six hours I had a portrait of Prince and just a sea of people behind me watching,” said Martinez.

The scene – captured in a local newspaper – illustrates the outsized influence Prince has on Minnesota culture. At one time, there was even a petition to rename MSP Airport after Prince.

That newspaper image of Martinez at work caught the attention of the senior curator at the Weisman Art Museum of Art, who commissioned Martinez to paint another mural of Prince.

This time, Martinez chose to paint on six high-quality panels of canvas to give the work more permanence. The “I Would Die 4 U” mural – named for a famous Prince song – was inspired by a photograph taken by Marc Cantor during Prince's 1985 Purple Rain tour.

The mural was on display at the Weisman for about a year and then at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle for another year before coming to MSP.

Although Martinez has painted murals in high traffic areas before, they pale in comparison with the 39.6 million people who passed through MSP Airport in 2019. So that guarantees the mural will be seen in the city Prince made famous with his “Minneapolis sound.”

“I love that this piece made it back to Minneapolis where it should be,” said Martinez.