Canberra’s iconic Skywhale returns home

Lachlan Roberts 6 March 2020 48

The famous Skywhale hot air balloon was designed by Patricia Piccinini. Photo: National Gallery of Australia.

Canberra’s world-famous Skywhale balloon is returning home and this time, it’s for good.

Thanks to an anonymous donation to the National Gallery of Australia, the gigantic hot air balloon will call Canberra home and will reappear in the capital’s skyline in March.

Commissioned by the ACT Government to mark Canberra’s centenary in 2013, the balloon has attracted its fair amount of love and controversy due to its bizarre design and exorbitant price tag.

National Gallery director Nick Mitzevich said the balloon made its way home thanks to its creator Patricia Piccinini after it was donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

“We are currently working with Patricia on a major commission and during our discussions with her, she suggested that she could help us bring Skywhale back,” Mr Mitzevich told Region Media. “I, of course, agreed and the work was donated to us with Patricia’s assistance.

“I am very pleased to now have the work in the National Collection, back to where it was initially commissioned. I think it is the perfect work for the National Collection because we are not bound by geography. It is our job to share the national collection here in Canberra and around the country.

“So we are the rightful place for it to be.”

Mr Mitzevich was ecstatic that the balloon was finally home.

“I love the Skywhale,” he said. “I am a huge fan. When I was the director of the Art Gallery of South Australia some years ago, I brought it to Adelaide. Over the last few years, it has toured around the country and also around the world and it has been loved by hundreds of thousands of people.”

Having featured around the globe, the airborne creature will grace Canberra’s skyline during next year’s balloon festival in March, before beginning a national tour for “her valedictorian lap”.

“We are really excited to show it over the Canberra skyline and then take it on a national tour around Australia,” Mr Mitzevich. “The brilliant thing about it is that we can take her to towns and cities that don’t have galleries so that is exciting.

“We are working with Patricia at the moment to develop an online education and learning facility, so when people see the Skywhale they can learn more about it online and learn why Patricia made Skywhale.

“Hopefully, they will learn a bit more about humanity and nurture.”

Skywhale will fly again in Canberra after being acquired by the National Gallery. Are you happy to see her back at home?

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48 Responses to Canberra’s iconic Skywhale returns home
Barry Williams Barry Williams 5:55 pm 24 Oct 19

Waste of money

Agata Nabagło Agata Nabagło 2:06 pm 23 Oct 19

Maddy Weeks you better be in Canberra in march

Karen Malam Karen Malam 10:54 pm 22 Oct 19

Absolutely fabulous, I love everything Piccinini does, surreal, thoughtful. Welcome home skywhale ❤️

Fergus Fergus 9:15 pm 22 Oct 19

Skywhale is a disgrace! Its an embarrassment for Canberra. Why bring it back? Was pleased to see the end of it. Stupid titty balloon!

John Moulis John Moulis 4:12 am 22 Oct 19

It was revolting and embarrassing. It encapsulated the disaster known as the Centenary of Canberra. The disastrous day at Lake Burley Griffin, Dugan and Ferguson drunk on the roof which greeted us on the front page of The Canberra Times on the day instead of a wraparound with historic photos headed “Happy birthday Canberra”, and this “public artwork” which we were not consulted about, didn’t give permission before it was commissioned and which cost us plenty. The achievement and pride of establishing a national capital and growing up in the city was washed away in a flurry of plastic boobs and ridicule from people interstate which made us a national laughing stock.

I can’t think of anything more inappropriate to symbolise Canberra than this monstrosity. Rather than going on display at the NGA, it should be burnt, the people who made it billed for the cost of making it, and the former Chief Minister who commissioned it, the Penis Owl and the other costly artworks should issue a public apology and the ACT Government should give an undertaking that anything similar will never happen again.

Alexandra Stewart Alexandra Stewart 9:29 pm 21 Oct 19

The Return of The Hindenboob

Kent Street Kent Street 2:01 pm 21 Oct 19

It may well be intended to ‘Illicit a Response’, but, for me, that response is nausea.

Kim Stern Kim Stern 8:45 pm 20 Oct 19

Hersha Kadkol more reason

    Harsha Talur Harsha Talur 8:47 pm 20 Oct 19

    was gonna tag you in this the other day! I'm firmly in the sky whale camp

    Kim Stern Kim Stern 8:56 pm 20 Oct 19

    It's polarising. It's disruptive. That's the point.

rationalobserver rationalobserver 7:57 pm 20 Oct 19

I’d pay (even more) money for it to stay away.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:38 pm 20 Oct 19

There was that other up-high NGA artwork which was struck by lightning, so perhaps a spectacular Hindenberg-style ending awaits this one.

Colin Wilson Colin Wilson 6:38 pm 20 Oct 19

Oh god no!!!

Amanda Adams Amanda Adams 6:01 pm 20 Oct 19

Doesn’t look like many are happy about what they helped to pay for,probably not asked as usual

Ian Burrell Ian Burrell 5:14 pm 20 Oct 19

That’s not a wale it is a joke there are more whales around that look like a wale not that thing

Jenny Bruce Jenny Bruce 5:13 pm 20 Oct 19

Well just great another hideous thing for Canberra being remembered for first the bloody owl, then the dope now this stupid thing well done Andrew Barr Canberra is so proud for making us

Lauren Finnerty Lauren Finnerty 2:58 pm 20 Oct 19

Connor Haas Charlie Martin sky whale!!

Peter Fogwell Peter Fogwell 2:48 pm 20 Oct 19

Ahh, the mammary mammal lol.

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 1:06 pm 20 Oct 19

Why? I do not know one soul who likes this abomination and wants it in Canberra!

Lachie McOmish Lachie McOmish 10:26 am 20 Oct 19

Artemis seems to be the inspiration. I won’t go in to it here but it might pay to have a look at the myths associated with Artemis and therefor by extension with Skywhale

David Brown David Brown 9:36 am 20 Oct 19

Why is it iconic? Sure we paid for it but it was actually in Canberra for only a very short time. I can’t see how it represents us at all. 🤔

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 10:58 am 20 Oct 19

    Because it was commissioned for the centenary celebrations.

    David Brown David Brown 4:39 pm 20 Oct 19

    Lin Van Oevelen True but how does that make it iconic?

Helen Bastin Mulley Helen Bastin Mulley 8:38 am 20 Oct 19

That thing is just so ugly

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