If you've passed through Bush Intercontinental Airport over the past few months, you may have noticed something unexpected: beauty. Yes, the security lines are still long and the dining options still short, but for those who have to suffer the indignities of post-9/11 air travel there is at least a visual respite in the form of the Houston Airport System's expanding art collection.

Earlier this week the HAS and the Houston Arts Alliance formally unveiled the airport's first "portable art collection." Although IAH has featured large-scale art installations for some time—Dennis Oppenheim's "Radiant Fountains" sculptures on JFK Boulevard being the most prominent—this new collection features smaller sculptures, crafts, and paintings by local artists from Houston and around the state. The collection includes over a hundred works by 37 artists, from the well-known (Luis Jimenez, Robert Pruitt, Jim Love) to the up-and-coming.

Spread out among terminals A and D, the art brightens up the airport's drab interiors and advertises the city's cultural riches to passengers from around the world. The art was purchased thanks to an ordinance that mandates that 1.75 percent of qualified Capital Improvement Project funds be set aside for the city's acquisition of new art and preservation of existing works. Since the ordinance was approved in 1999, the city of Houston's art collection has grown to over 500 pieces. 

Check out our slideshow for a selection of works currently on display at IAH, and let us know what you think. Did the airport system spend its money wisely?

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