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Pop Culture Icons Are Pawns in New STL Airport Exhibit

Posted on May 16, 2018 in Art Media Releases

Some of the world’s most famous characters and one of history’s oldest games collide at St. Louis Lambert International Airport with the World Chess Hall of Fame’s newest exhibition, Capturing Imagination: Pop Culture and Chess.  

Capturing Imagination includes 16 chess sets and artifacts from the permanent collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). Visitors will marvel at beautifully-sculpted, resin chess pieces including Avengers: Infinity War characters Thor, Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man and Black Panther. Playful sets, featuring characters like internationally-adored Hello Kitty, sitting atop a chess board that doubles as a collector’s tin and cast, hand-painted pieces from Winnie the Pooh, will charm kids of all ages. Science fiction fanatics will set their phasers to fun with a Star Trek tri-dimensional chess set, beaming with precision-cast pieces coated in sterling silver and 24-karat gold. Other pop culture icons such as Snoopy, Fred Flintstone, Miss Piggy, Big Bird and Bart Simpson appeal to all generations.

“Travelers arriving in Saint Louis will know instantly that they are in the nation’s chess capital,” WCHOF Associate Curator Emily Allred said. “Chess is so prevalent in pop culture, both through the physical game and allegorical references, and we want to highlight these lighthearted interpretations of the royal game.”

The game of chess, with its two opposing sides, lends itself to telling stories about good versus evil and heroes battling villains, which is reflected in the chess pieces, sets, comic books, and ephemera on display. On the other hand, many of the sets in Capturing Imagination: Pop Culture and Chess simply provide the opportunity to see familiar characters like The Simpsons, The Muppets and The Flintstones as kings, queens, and knights.

Capturing Imagination: Pop Culture and Chess is now on display at the Lambert Gallery in the Terminal 1 Bag Claim through November 4, 2018. Exhibition funding is made possible by the Regional Arts Commission and the Lambert Art and Culture Program.  

The World Chess Hall of Fame was chosen to exhibit by the Lambert Art & Culture Program through the Airport’s seven-member Airport Art Advisory Committee. Current members are Lisa Cakmak, Associate Curator of Ancient Art at Saint Louis Art Museum; Ellen Gale, Executive Director Clayton Chamber of Commerce; Shelley Hagan, Wells Fargo Curator Corporate Art; Leslie Markle, Curator of Public Art, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum; Kiku Obata, Founding Principal of Kiku Obata & Co.; Roseann Weiss, consultant with ART+; and Carlos Zamora, Creative Director at Express Scripts.  

The mission of the Lambert Art and Culture Program is to create a visually outstanding impression of St. Louis Lambert International Airport, generate community pride, and ensure that art at STL continues to complement and build upon the airport’s rich visual legacy. The program aims to highlight the St. Louis region’s unique art and culture, while also showcasing national and international works, focusing on both visual and performing arts. Currently, there are 29 works of art (temporary, permanent or on-loan) on exhibit at the Airport. For more information, visit

The World Chess Hall of Fame is The World Chess Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in St. Louis, MO., housed in an historic 15,900 square-foot residence-turned-business, and features the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame, displays of artifacts from the permanent collection and exhibitions highlighting the great players, historic games and rich cultural history of chess. The World Chess Hall of Fame partners with the Saint Louis Chess Club to provide innovative programming and outreach to local, national and international audiences. 

For more information, please visit the World Chess Hall of Fame online at or call (314) 367-9243 (WCHF).