Skywhale is getting a companion: introducing Skywhalepapa

It’s a bird! It’s a plane? No, it’s Skywhalepapa. Yes, the National Gallery of Australia is presenting a companion to Skywhale that will eventually tour Australia after the initial show closes in Canberra in May next year.

Designed by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, Skywhalepapa and Skywhale are essentially hot air balloons that look a lot like whales. Piccinini is better known for her realistic human sculptures, although she does work in a variety of media including painting, video, and digital prints, too.

Photo: ACT Government

National Gallery of Australia has introduced Skywhalepapa as part of its 2020 program, a long-awaited follow-up to the controversial 2013 Skywhale project.

Piccinini is an accomplished artist despite originally studying economics — she went on to represent Australia at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. She is also one of Australia’s most exciting home-grown talents, with her works inciting awe and sometimes fear in their viewers. Indeed Skywhale was controversial when it was first released, in part because it cost $170,000.

It was originally designed to celebrate Canberra’s centenary and is constructed from more than 3.5 kilometres of fabric. But its release prompted a variety of comments from locals and politicians alike, and a firestorm on social media — not all was positive. Nevertheless, Skywhale was a huge feat and Skywhalepapa is set to garner more attention for Canberra and Australia on the local and international art scene.

Piccinini is still part of a stellar lineup of artists on show at the National Gallery of Australia next year including an exhibition titled Know My Name, which will feature 150 works made by women. 

Skywhales: Every heart sings runs from 7 March – 30 May 2020