The Skywhale lives!
Oh yes, our ten-tittied friend in the sky, the hot air balloon created by Patricia Piccinini for Canberra‘s centenary back in 2013, is returning to its rightful place in Australia‘s skies.
The alternately beloved and derided $350,000 balloon took her maiden voyage back in May 2013, calmly floating from the National Gallery of Australia across Lake Burley Griffin to the National Museum of Australia. She went on to cruise Hobart and Launceston for Dark Mofo that June, before looming over Melbourne‘s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in December. Since then, she’s awed Japanese audiences, and made it over to Ireland and South America.
The Skywhale did not make it into Canberra’s 2015 Balloon Spectacular as anticipated, because, according to Events ACT, its owners, Global Ballooning, applied for entry into the festival after the deadline. Which means we haven’t seen our well-endowed girl for five, long and restless years.
Well we thankfully now have an excuse to use the most peaceful of .gifs, because she’ll be flying overhead in her Yarra Valley home – she now lives, deflated, in a box in a Yarra Valley storage facility – on November 22 ahead of the opening of a new joint exhibition between Piccinini and Joy Hester at TarraWarra Museum of Art.
Through Love… collects Hester’s ink and paper works and Piccinini’s fantastical semi-human sculptures, and runs from November 24 to March 11.
The Skywhale though, so loveable, so charismatic, a loveable goof with undulating breasts, she’s a one-night only thing. You might have even seen her take a test flight two weeks ago.
Here’s what Piccinini told the New York Times about her bb’s triumphant return: “It’s thrilling to just have her in the air because she’s such a beautiful presence.”
While she knows the buxom nature of her most iconic work was controversial, she doesn’t subscribe to all the uproar, which included both opposition and governing ACT parliamentarians shading the work as an “embarrassing indulgence“. Piccinini doesn’t see it that way.
To me, it’s a very strong, maternal figure and in some ways I valorise maternal figures in my work, and the strength and beauty that they embody.
People didn’t see that; they see a more sexualised thing. Ten breasts are confronting. But at the same time, breasts are created to nurture the young.
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Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles