Painting With a Learjet Engine
A German princess takes to the runway to produce “jet-art.”
Princess Tarinan von anhalt, whose late husband, Prince Jurgen von Anhalt, claimed lineage to the former German principality of Saxony, is an artist. Her work has been compared with that of expressionist Jackson Pollock, but instead of dripping paint on a canvas, she blasts it on, using the exhaust from your everyday business jet. She calls it “jet art.”
She’s painted with Gulfstreams, Citations, and Challengers. For Learjet’s 50th anniversary, she jet-arted the company colors on canvas using a brand-new Lear 45. She even jet-arts jeans.
Jet art takes months of preparation. After choosing the airport and getting approval, the princess and the royal production team cover the tarmac with drop cloth, build platforms, and arrange for the airplane and pilot. An audience of 50 to more than 300 invited guests arrives, followed, at the appointed time, by the princess, who says her mission is “to engage, to entertain the audience.” She elaborates: “It’s a real show. One time I rode onto the runway on a white Harley-Davidson motorcycle, dressed in all white. Another time I flew in via helicopter.”
How does a princess get into painting via jet engine? She apprenticed with the prince, who developed the process more than 30 years ago. “Jet art isn’t just taking paint and tossing it in the air,” she explains. “It’s blending the scientific and the technology of the art form. I have to be concerned with the engine size and power, distances and timing, and the mix of certain colors.”
Of course, jet art has its hazards. “You can’t be afraid to get gallons of paint all over you in every pore,” Her Highness says. So far she’s avoided getting sucked into a whirring compressor or being toasted by the exhaust, but she’s had close calls. Her team uses hand signals to communicate over the engine noise. “One time during rehearsal, the pilot did not understand,” recalls von Anhalt. “I use one engine, generally not on full throttle, but this nice pilot did two engines on full throttle—almost takeoff power. I became The Flying Nun.”
If you’re thinking of hanging an original Princess von Anhalt on your wall, expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to more than $1 million. “But when it’s completed and dried,” Her Highness explains, “you can really feel the power from the jets.”