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Patricia Piccinini's 'Skywhale' Is Returning to the Skies in 2021 with a New Floating Companion

They'll both fly above the National Gallery of Australia on three separate dates, before touring the country.
By Sarah Ward
January 04, 2021
By Sarah Ward
January 04, 2021

Thirty-four-metres long, more than twice as big as a regular hot air balloon and ripped straight from Patricia Piccinini's inimitable mind, Skywhale might just be one of Australia's most recognisable recent pieces of art. It's a sight to see, and the largest-scale example of the artist's fascination with the thin line that separates nature and technology — and it's about to meet its match.

Come February, the National Gallery of Australia will unveil Piccinini's new Skywhalepapa, which is designed to form a family with Skywhale. It was originally scheduled to premiere in 2020 — but, after joining the list of things that didn't turn out as planned last year, it'll take to the sky on three mornings in 2021 instead.

Both Skywhale and Skywhalepapa will float above Canberra at 5.30am on Saturday, February 6, then again on Monday, March 8, and finally on Saturday, April 3, as  part of an event called Skywhales: Every Heart Sings — with the second bulbous sculpture commissioned as part of the gallery's Balnaves Contemporary Series. Although art lovers can check out the event for free, you do need to register if you'll be in Canberra on any of those dates, and fancy getting up early and going along. Of course, that's hardly surprising in these COVID-19-safe times.

Skywhalepapa, 2019/20 (artist's sketch), Patricia Piccinini. Courtesy of the artist.

Just how big Skywhalepapa will be is also yet to be announced but, given the impressive size of its companion, expect it to be hefty. And if seeing two Skywhales isn't enough, the NGA has been hosting Patricia Piccinini: Skywhales, an exhibition dedicated to them, since March 2020. It'll wrap up on August 1, 2021.

If you can't make it to Canberra to see the growing Skywhale clan, it'll also head around the country for an NGA touring exhibition. Locations and dates haven't been announced as yet, and are set to be confirmed in the future.

Skywhales: Every Heart Sings takes place at the National Gallery of Australia, Parkes Place East, Parkes, ACT — with the floating sculptures taking to the sky at 5.30am on Saturday, February 6, then again on Monday, March 8, and finally on Saturday, April 3. For further information, visit the NGA website.

Top images: Skywhale, 2013, Patricia Piccinini. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of anonymous donor 2019, Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program. Photo: Martin Ollman Photography.

Published on January 04, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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