When BizAv Meets the Art World: A Princess and Her $11 Million Dollar "Paintbrush"

11:31 AM

Photo: Tom Dipace/AP Images for Flexjet
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

When we think of artists, the visual that comes to mind is usually of a person perched atop a stool, palette full of paint daubs in one hand, a brush in the other. Gentle sounds of flute music waft in from the next room. Around the small studio are splashes of color...years of stray paint that has managed to miss the canvas. A small window lets in the raw light of a brilliant Paris morning illuminating the beret that the "art-teest" wears proudly.

Apparently, Tarinan von Anhalt, a German Princess by marriage, has never seen that movie, as she has a slightly different way to create art. It involves a tight protective latex suit, safety goggles, a very large canvas, and a few thousand pounds of thrust blasting out of the business end of a Learjet 45XR.

On April 30 at Signature Flight Support in West Palm Beach, Florida, von Anhalt created more pieces of abstract "Jet Art" at an event coordinated with Flexjet, who was looking for a unique way to honor Bill Lear's innovative and adventuresome spirit. Flexjet's President, Deanna White explains the company's involvement: 

“Fifty years ago, Bill Lear created a new category of business aviation, one focused on performance, elegance and, most notably, speed,” said White. “Today, in partnership with Jet Art Group, Flexjet is celebrating Bill’s innovative and adventuresome spirit by harnessing the power of his legendary work of art to create one-of-a-kind pieces to mark this golden anniversary.”


When you watch the video of von Anhalt's demonstration of the Jet Art technique, there can be no doubt that this is a very wild way of expressing yourself:

Photo: Tom Dipace/AP Images for Flexjet

The "paintbrush" is a Honeywell TFE731-20 turbofan, capable of throwing 3,500 pounds of heat, thrust and hurricane-force wind out its backside. With brakes firmly locked and the ramp covered in a large amount of plastic dropcloth, a Flexjet pilot eases the power up on von Anhalt's command. At about half power, the petite princess - in a form-fitting black suit that looks like a cross between a SCUBA diver and a motorcycle-riding Ninja - grabs canisters of brightly-colored paint from her many assistants and cautiously steps into the jet blast. With movements that appear at first glance as wreckless abandon but in fact are thoughtfully made, von Anhalt assaults the canvas with erratic but intriguing "brush strokes"...no two are ever alike. With "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" hand signals, the artist instructs the pilot to adjust the Learjet's power as she reaches for the next color. In a matter of minutes, she manages to avoid becoming a piece of airborne FOD, and has created another incredible piece of Jet Art.

The artist obviously gets a rush out of the whole Jet Art exercise:

"Yes, every painting is unique and can’t be recreated, it’s very special," von Anhalt says. "I stand sideways while moving into the jet stream, and by the end of the session, I am covered in paint. Danger is always present when you work with this type of art form. It’s thrilling! The blast of the jet engine creates a texture and structure that simply cannot be achieved by a brush or a palette knife, as well as a unique paint combination. I'll hurl paint into a force of approximately seven tons, several times greater than hurricane winds. The heat and velocity dispensed from the engine will blend and weld the paint onto the canvas, resulting in unusual abstract paintings. In 2008, I became the first woman in the world to brave the jet stream to create art."
Photo: Tom Dipace/AP Images for Flexjet
There are times like this when an aviation story comes along that screams for coverage on Airplanista. Like my tagline says..."Sometimes Serious, Sometimes Humorous, Always Unpredictable!" When Flexjet pitched this piece to me, they sold it as an "off-beat aircraft story that might be of interest" and they were right about that! I knew it would easily satisfy the requirement for "unpredictable" content.

I'm always on the lookout for these types of non-standard aviation stories, and this one did not disappoint me as a writer. Any time you can afford to crank up a large, expensive business jet engine for the sole purpose of blasting pigment-infused liquids through the atmosphere at warp speeds until they collide with canvas in an incredibly beautiful explosion of color and design, I'm all over it. It would have been fantastic to hop a spare seat on an eastbound Flexjet positioning flight to see this Jet Art demo in person.

In the art world, they have a word - Provenance - to describe the backstory of a painting, where it came from, who has owned it, and most importantly, where the artist's inspiration came from when they imagined the work. It is pretty obvious that the owners of von Anhalt's Jet Art pieces will certainly have quite the story to tell when their guests admire these paintings

Now, as I reflect on this story, I have to wonder if I can ever watch any "normal" painter perch atop a stool and SLOWLY dab bits of paint onto a small artboard because it just sounds so...boring!

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