The original Skywhale was commissioned as part of Canberra's 100th birthday celebrations and it's fair to say she started life as a social pariah. Dubbed the 'hinden-boob', a reference to the many-mammaried appearance of the balloon, she sparked fierce debate and division wherever she flew. In time, she managed to win over her fellow Canberrans and she's taken on a kind of cult-hero status so when her friend Skywhale Papa was created, he was welcomed with open arms.
As part of the National Gallery of Australia's Every Heart Sings exhibition, the pair were scheduled to take flight together for the first time in February but a fierce easterly wind meant they could only manage a short tethered flight. It didn't dampen the spirits though with the early morning crowd bopping away to the pre-dawn beats of Pheno's 'We are Skywhales', munching skywhale inspired croissants and even picking up some Skywhale merch from a pop up shop at the National Gallery.
If you missed this unusual spectacle, fear not: the Skywhale pair and their children will fly over Canberra twice more on 8 March as part of the Canberra Balloon Spectacular and again on 3 April before heading off on a national tour. The pre-flight inflation and launch are ticketed - tickets are free and you can find out more here. The Patricia Piccinini: Skywhales exhibition continues at the Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery at the National Gallery until 1 August 2021 - entry is free.