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March 8, 2022

Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale Family Comes to Melbourne

Kathryn Shanks
Patricia Piccinini’s Skywhale Family Comes to Melbourne
The majestic hot air balloons will drift over the city on the morning of March 19.

Australian artist Patricia Piccinini continues to thrive in Melbourne’s art scene, with MPavilion adding her extraordinary air balloon sculptures to their events schedule this March. The Skywhale first flew over Canberra in 2013 and was joined by a new balloon design, Skywhalepapa, in 2020 – a pair that the National Gallery of Australia is calling the Skywhale Family. March 19 will see the pair’s inaugural Melbourne flight, which will be preceded by Skywhale activities on March 10.

Patricia Piccinini is an artist of entirely unique works; her sculptures in particular are striking, fascinating, and – sometimes – disturbing. Her works can be described as hyper-realistic surrealism, with humanoid and hybrid creatures featuring prominently in her explorations of relationships and bodies. Some of these sculptural creatures are currently on display at Flinders Street Station’s ballroom in Melbourne; A Miracle Constantly Repeated will continue until June 12 this year, but if you want an outdoor event just as extraordinary, MPavilion has you covered.

This Thursday, March 10, Melbourne’s MPavilion is hosting Skywhales: Tales and Tails, where Piccinini will be reading aloud her new children’s book, Every Heart Sings. The book tells the story of the Skywhale family, and the reading will be followed by a conversation about real whales between the artist and marine mammal expert Dr. Vanessa Pirotta. From the evolution of oceanic whales to Piccinini’s inspiration for her balloons, you’ll learn all manner of information about whales (real and sculptural). This free event will take place between 5:15pm–7pm and is a great way to prepare for the big flight the weekend after!

Saturday March 19 is the big day when the Skywhale family lifts off and drifts over Melbourne’s skyline. While Tales and Tails is an evening event, the Skywhale flight is early morning – and we mean early! To catch the inflation and take-off of the Skywhales, you’ll have to be at Yarra Bend’s Corben Oval at 5am. People gathering to gaze at the majestic Skywhales are encouraged to rug up or even dress up in Skywhale-inspired costumes, with on-site coffee carts ensuring everyone stays warm. Skywhales: Every Heart Sings will be an incredible (and incredibly rare) sight to see.

Patricia Piccinini is an amazing contemporary artist; her unconventional artworks never fail to catch and keep your attention, so try to see her works while they’re in Melbourne! If you can’t make it to a Skywhale event, make sure to visit her exhibition A Miracle Constantly Repeated at Flinders Street Station to experience her sculptures for yourself.

If you liked this article, you might like our feature about the celebratory exhibit of Australian artist Jeffrey Smart at the National Gallery of Australia, on show until May 15.

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