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'The connection couldn’t be plainer'

Canberrans don’t own the Skywhale hot-air balloon, despite spending $170,000 on the controversial piece of art.

Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer confirmed that the 23-metre tall creation is not owned by the ACT government, but by the company that operates the balloon.

“It’s actually owned by the balloon company that flies it,” she said.

“It’s a complex contract. The intellectual property belongs to the artist … and she determines in the end when offers come for it to be flown, she determines where it’s flown.”

Speaking on 2CC Friday morning, Ms Archer also defended the cost of the hot-air ballon, created by artist and former Canberran Patricia Piccinini.

“This is the cheapest piece of public art,” she said.


“Almost every piece of public art in Canberra costs more. There is no argument on cost.”

The Skywhale has been received with varied feedback since its unveiling on Thursday, prompting comments such as ugly, impractical and “a huge waste of money”.

But Ms Archer dismissed the criticism as disappointing.

“Everyone seems to have been really, really willing to judge this without ever seeing it and I find that a little bit curious, a bit kneejerk and strange,” she said.

She also defended its relation to Canberra and the city’s centenary, saying the “connection couldn’t be plainer”.

“We’ve been inviting lots and lots of ex-Canberrans … to bring back their stuff,” she said.

“The connection with the centenary is ‘look at how many amazing people Canberra has produced over these years’.”

Ms Archer said the balloon was booked to fly in Hobart and Melbourne later this year, and could not confirm if the creation would be back for the balloon festival in 2014.


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