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Patricia Piccinini's Otherworldy 'Skywhale' Took Flight Today — Without Her New Floating Companion

'Skywhale' will make her final solo flight in Canberra tonight, before being joined by a new Skywhale friend at the National Gallery of Australia this May.
By Sarah Ward
March 09, 2020
By Sarah Ward
March 09, 2020

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 2013 might just be one of Australia's most recognisable recent pieces of art.

And, this morning at sunrise (Monday, March 9), Skywhale took flight once again as part of the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. She'll make her second (and final) solo flight this evening at 8pm from the North Lawns — so, if you happen to be in Canberra, keep an eye on the skies.

Then, as of May, Skywhale will be joined by her new companion, Skywhalepapa. The new floating sculpture is designed to form a family with Skywhale, with the second bulbous sculpture commissioned as part of the gallery's Balnaves Contemporary Series. In total, the pair will take flight six times during the nearly three-month Skywhales: Every Heart Sings exhibition — with launch locations at Parliamentary Triangle and yet-to-be-confirmed sites in Woden and Tuggeranong.

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

The structures' first co-flight is set to take place on Saturday, May 2 from Parliamentary Triangle. As reported by The Guardian Australia, the new balloon will be around 30 metres tall, 37 metres wide and weigh a whopping 400 kilograms. While the two were meant to take to the sky together today, Piccinini told The Guardian that it was better to have a "staggered approach" and allow Skywhale to be reintroduced to Canberra before Skywhalepapa (and the duo's attached children) take to the skies together.

If you can't make it to Canberra to see the growing Skywhale clan, they will also tour the country later in the year, with locations and dates still to be confirmed.

Apart from the Skywhales: Every Heart Sings installation, the NGA is offering up a whole heap of top-notch exhibitions in 2020. It'll welcome Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London in November, boasting over 60 works from European masters — most of which have never before travelled to Australia.

Art lovers can also look forward to Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, which'll shine a spotlight on the nation's female creatives; Belonging: Stories of Australian Art, a major collection of 19th-century Aussie pieces; a six-month focus on Chinese artist and activist Xu Zhen; and The Body Electric, a showcase of works by female-identifying creatives that are all about sex, pleasure and desire.

Skywhales: Every Heart Sings launched today, March 9 at the National Gallery of Australia, Parkes Place East, Parkes, ACT. Additional flight dates are planned for May 2 through July 25. For further information about the NGA's 2020 lineup, visit the gallery's website.

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

Published on March 09, 2020 by Sarah Ward


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