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Familiar face set to return to LAX later this year


After nearly three years off view to the public while it underwent professional conservation, the famed bronze portrait bust of former Los Angeles Mayor, Tom Bradley, is finally back at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and ready to be installed in its new permanent home.

The bust, a 10-foot-tall bronze and granite sculpture created by artist Serge Sarkis in 1987 and gifted to LAX by Mayor Bradley – Los Angeles’ first black mayor, who served for 20 years in office – was removed from its former location outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal entrance in 2020 during construction work on the building.

Prior to the move, the art had greeted tens of millions of travellers for more than 30 years and was a popular location for photos beneath the main entrance to the international terminal.

“Former Mayor Tom Bradley was an icon of Los Angeles and has become synonymous with our beloved international terminal that welcomes millions of people from around the world each year,” enthused Justin Erbacci, CEO of LAX operator, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA).

“We are proud to help conserve and restore the famous bust of Mayor Bradley, so that it may shine anew as it continues to greet travellers for decades to come.”

During the work, the LAX art team has overseen the careful restoration and conservation of the bust by Sculpture Conservation Studio, Carnevale & Lohr and Modern Art Foundry.

Sculpture Conservation Studio was key in preparing the sculpture for its removal as well as cleaning and preparing the surface for the addition of a new patina to the bronze. Carnevale & Lohr spearheaded the removal and crating of the sculpture as well as fabrication of its base plate. The original fabricator, Modern Art Foundry, sent a team from New York to refresh the aged patina of the sculpture’s surface.

The restoration work was completed at a cost of about $65,000 and was funded by LAWA through the City of Los Angeles’ Public Art Program and LAWA’s Capital Improvement Program.

The airport is completing work on the vertical cores of multiple terminals, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Work on these multi-level additions or new facilities began in the spring of 2019.

In addition to providing vertical circulation and connection to the Automated People Mover (APM) system, these cores also provide space that can be used for offices, baggage claims, restrooms, lounges, or other airport uses, as determined by LAX and its partners. In total, seven cores will provide access from the terminals to the APM system.

The Tom Bradley core will connect to the West Central Terminal Area (CTA) station and is oriented for easy travel, with vertical conveyances connecting departures, arrivals, APM Levels and office spaces.

Departing passengers will walk off the APM West Central Terminal Area Station pedestrian walkway and be greeted by the iconic Tom Bradley bust in a three-story open atrium full of natural light.

Upon entering the atrium, passengers will have an elevated view of the ticketing level. Their view will orientate them to their surroundings and provide wayfinding, flight information and vertical conveyance. In the future, ticketing kiosks and self-service baggage drops will be available.

Other customers who need to check in at the Tom Bradley ticket counters will utilise the vertical circulation of the core to reach the ticket counters and use the self-service baggage drops.

The Tom Bradley core partially opened in late 2021, with domestic passengers arriving at the terminal using it to reach a new baggage claim carousel. The newly conserved sculpture will be debut in its new location within the Tom Bradley International Terminal’s entrance on the Departures Level in late 2023.

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