Photo: tarrawarrama/Instagram

The Controversial Skywhale Is Coming Back to Australia

Australia News Art + Architecture
by Eben Diskin Oct 18, 2018

The great thing about art is it doesn’t exactly have to make sense to make an impression. Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale certainly seems nonsensical, but it’s definitely memorable. First appearing in 2013 over the skies of Canberra in Australia for the city’s centenary celebration, the peculiar hot air balloon is finally making its return. Its debut wasn’t exactly a rousing success, however. Given its unusual design, with the head of a turtle, body of a cetacean, and 10 huge hanging breasts, the balloon was criticized for not appropriately representing Australia’s capital.

But on November 22nd, the critics will be out of luck. The balloon is slated to make its triumphant return over the Yarra Valley in Victoria — an area famous for ballooning. Since its initial debut, the Skywhale has appeared in Japan, Ireland, and Brazil, and has only risen in popularity.

Indeed, the Skywhale is one of the biggest reasons for Piccinini’s celebrity, and its return to Australia coincides with the opening of her new exhibition, “Patricia Piccinini and Joy Hester: Through Love…” at the TarraWarra Museum of Art. Piccinini, known for her hyperreal hybrid silicone sculptures, told The New York Times, “It’s thrilling to just have her in the air because she’s such a beautiful presence.”

Victoria Lynn, director of the TarraWarra Museum of Art, isn’t too worried about criticism this time around. Of Piccinini’s work, she said it “engenders strong emotions and I think it’s because she’s dealing with difficult topics…art is there to challenge us, and Skywhale certainly does.”


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Along with many of Piccinini’s other creations, the Skywhale was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel. Lynn points out the book’s message is to “love the monsters we create,” and in true Frankenstein fashion, the Skywhale is certainly a monster both beloved and misunderstood.

Check out this video of the Skywhale’s first flight in 2013:

H/T: The New York Times

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