Patricia Piccinini’s majestic Skywhales will fly over Ballarat as part of annual winter festival

Patricia Piccinini’s majestic Skywhales will fly over Ballarat as part of annual winter festival

Image: Patricia Piccinini, Skywhalepapa, 2020, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, commissioned with the assistance of The Balnaves Foundation 2019, purchased 2020, © Patricia Piccinini

See Patricia Piccinini’s two monumental sculptures in the form of hot-air balloons take to the skies over Ballarat this July.

Following their first-ever flight over the Melbourne city at sunrise earlier this year, in a journey visible from the CBD through to the outer suburbs, Patricia Piccinini’s ‘Skywhale’ and ‘Skywhalepapa’ will float through Ballarat skies in July this year as part of the annual Ballarat Winter Festival.

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The monumental hot air balloon sculptures, Skywhale and Skywhalepapa are the creation of renowned Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, recognised globally for her hyperreal, lifelike works. Commissioned by Canberra city, the contemporary visual artist created a hot air balloon piece to tour around the world with Skywhale. The grotesque, whale-like mammal balloon appeared in the skies above Canberra in 2013, widening the eyes of the population, and leaving many speechless.

Skywhale is now joined by a companion balloon Skywhalepapa, created in 2020, the 10 story-high male counterpart to the original hot air balloon who carries nine baby skywhales in the shelter of his giant flippers.

Both launched together in 2021 as part of Skywhales: Every Heart Sings, and now they’re traversing the skies of Australia as a two-year National Gallery Touring Event, taking to the Grampians this weekend in May before heading to Ballarat this July.

Patricia Piccinini conceives of Skywhales: Every heart sings not only as two sculptures but also as a performance or event.

“I imagine visitors assembling to watch Skywhalepapa coming to life,” says Piccinini. “With a single skywhale figure we have a character, but with the two we have a relationship and a narrative.

“Skywhalepapa continued the concepts around nurturing, caring, nature and evolution that began with Skywhale. I’m really moved by nature. The idea that all creatures, not just humans, are perfectly evolved for their environment blows my mind.”

Presented by the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Skywhales: Every Heart Sings will launch on Saturday, July 9 and be accompanied by music written by Canberra musician Jess Green (AKA Pheno) in collaboration with Piccinini.

Pheno and her band will visit Ballarat to perform for the launch. The moment of lift-off will take place to the accompaniment of the ethereal sounds of a 100-strong children’s choir under the guidance of local musician Stella Savy. The final flight path of the skywhales will depend on weather conditions on the day.

Entry is free but visitors are encouraged to register at the Gallery website here and come to launch venue to be part of the action.