“Mustang,” by Luis Jiménez 

(Photo: Courtesy of Denver International Airport)

The infamous blue horse at Denver International Airport may have more fans than many Coloradans think. The results of a new poll published by USA Today named DIA as the "Best U.S. Airport for Art." The poll recognizes DIA for transforming itself from a utilitarian transport hub to a space for eye-catching artworks. Readers selected DIA as the favorite from among 20 airports nominated by the publication.

A few days ago, when I first found out that DIA was in the running for a top spot in this poll, I exchanged emails with Chris Stevens, the manager of the art and culture program at DIA, about the USA Today contest.

DIA is home to some of the country’s most polarizing public art pieces including the much-reviled “Mustang” (aka “The Demon Horse”, pictured left) which crushed and killed its creator, artist Luis Jimenez, when it was under constructions nearly six years ago.

“While we are not a large market, the airport does hold some of the most famous and infamous pieces of public art in its collection,” Stevens said.

Stevens is concerned about the adjudication of the USA Today competition. “It is not as much about the art as it is about who has a better marketing and social media campaign,” Stevens said.

Yet in a way, it makes more sense for airport art to be judged by regular citizens (as opposed to professional art critics) than other kinds of art. Airport art is by definition public art. So why not let the public decide?

Having said that, I’m sort of bored with hearing locals and tourists complaining about works like “Mustang” at DIA. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about, from a Denver Post article that was published in February:

“He looks like he’s going to kill me,” Jennifer Newson said in the DIA terminal. “It’s not really settling when you’re driving to get on a flight and then you see the ‘demon horse.’ ”

I happen to think “Mustang” is an awe-inspiring piece. I kind of wish the top international art critics would weigh in on this one — and some of the other works on display in airports across the land that tend to attract fairly superficial and predictable responses from the general public but generally go un-appraised by art experts.

With airports becoming increasingly dedicated to the idea of stimulating travelers’ hearts and minds as they wait for their flights, airport art could use some intelligent commentary — alongside the thumbs up / thumbs down evaluations of the passing public.