In a dispute that began in 2016 when Hawaiian Airlines purchased Honolulu's Pacifica Airport Center, Wyland and the airline have been at odds over the future of two of the artist's most popular murals at the airport. Wyland is known and admired worldwide for, among many things, the incredible whaling walls that he creates, which are remarkable, life-sized murals featuring his hand-painted gray whales, breaching humpbacks, blue whales, and other vibrant marine life. The two murals on the airport center in Honolulu, titled "Hawaiian Humpbacks" and "New Millennium," each of which is a mind-boggling 35,000 square-feet, were painted in 1999 and have been much beloved by both residents and visitors to the city for close to 20 years. Needing to make repairs to the aging building, the airline threatened to paint over the murals, a devastating prospect and a potentially profound loss for lovers of public art.
In response to the threat, Wyland offered his time and resources to repaint the murals for free, which have faded over the years. But the airline came back with a demand of a contract to be signed by Wyland if he were to repair the murals, making him an independent contractor and taking away his ownership of the art. "That means they could just paint over it, five minutes after I've finished restoring it," Wyland said.
In a remarkable showing of support, over 700,000 people stepped up over social media and saved the murals. Through the voices of the people who love Wyland and his extraordinary marine life art, these irreplaceable whaling walls will survive-- and Wyland himself repainted them over a record five-day period. Lucky for all of us, these murals will endure and will continue to greet the 7 million visitors to the island each year. As Wyland says, "Saving these murals sets a precedent that public art should be protected at all costs, now and in the future. I think everybody wins on this one."