This Artist Hates the Aviation Industry—So She Started Her Own Airline for the Art World

Qinmin Liu's private airline doubles as artwork, and its maiden voyage will be to Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

Qinmin Liu. Courtesy the artist.

Artist Qinmin Liu knows you hate commercial air travel. Rising costs, shrinking legroom, and general indignities—like, oh, the occasional customer getting dragged off a plane—have led to growing discontent among those who can’t afford first class.

So if you’re soon headed to events like Art Basel Miami Beach, Untitled San Francisco, or New York’s Armory Show, Liu has come up with another option for you: Angelhaha, her very own airline. Conceived as an artwork in itself, Angelhaha offers only one-way tickets, and only to art events. Born in Changsha, Hunan Province, and now living in New York, the artist has “lots of big dreams,” as she told artnet News.

The service’s maiden voyage, to Miami on December 6, will be provided by Liu along with Meisihang Private Aviation; at publication time, six of the nine seats were available. Liu declined to disclose prices for this flight, but said that prices for future flights will range from $300 to $3,000, depending on itinerary and carrier.

Crowds at Gatwick Airport. Photo Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images.

Crowds at Gatwick Airport. Photo Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images.

“I hate traveling,” says Liu. “Every time I go back home I spend 14 hours in an airplane, and I’m always thinking about their service—the food, the movies, the quality of attendants, and even the smell, and wondering: Is there something I can do about this?” The artist herself, a newly minted MFA who studied at New York’s School of Visual Arts, has never bought tickets at the top prices she’s charging for her own flights.

The project’s first phase was an ambiguous advertisement placed on Chinese state television. It took some 18 months to get it on air, she said, and in the end, she wasn’t sure why it was accepted since the authorities carefully vet all submissions. “I think I just got lucky,” she said.

Liu was cagey about details of the upcoming journeys but did say that she will operate as the flight attendant and that every conceivable detail—from food and water to, yes, the smell—will be chosen by Liu herself.

“Everything you will receive is happiness and it’s a piece of me,” she said.

While the upcoming flights will be for only a select few, Liu has set her sights on a more accessible future for Angelhaha.

“I emailed the big airlines, but they don’t want to work with artists,” she said. “But my goal is to have a bigger aircraft so I can have offer affordable tickets for everybody.”

“The whole project is about unachievable dreams,” she said. “And I want to achieve them.”

See the artist’s commercial, which aired on Chinese state television, below:

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