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'The connection couldn’t be plainer'

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The Skywhale's first flight

In May this year, sculptor Patricia Piccinini took her art to the skies, constructing a hot air balloon in the shape of a whale to honour Canberra's centenary. Vision supplied by Blueboat.

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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.

Former Canberran Patricia Piccinini with her creation, the <em>Skywhale</em>.

Former Canberran Patricia Piccinini with her creation, the Skywhale.

“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.

71 comments

  • This is the stuff of a mental asylum. The "connection couldn't be plainer" statement makes no sense, even after 3 bottles of wine. Public art - I understand public art is accessable by the public, how is this accessable - not that anyone would.

    Why has to 100 years celebration been allowed to be stuffed up so enourmously ??

    Gallagher needs to step in and turn this around before Canberra becomes a bigger laughing stock than it already is - or is that the goal??

    I've seen school fetes prepared better than this. What a joke.

    Commenter
    The Chairman
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    May 10, 2013, 9:44AM
    • Agree with the last sentence - wow.

      Monuments make a point that transcends the moment. The Princess Di Memorial in London is something that didn't pass the initial test but now is a much loved and interactive scupture that people flock to. It represents well her public legacy.

      Canberra needs something similar for the 100th.

      Commenter
      Outraged of Palmerston
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 9:57AM
    • Don't get me wrong I like the design and idea of the sky whale - just don't see the connection with canberra centenary, accessable public art and the cost being justified on that basis. I mean its off to Hobart shortly and then somewhere else. People will remember the sky whale for the sky whale not for its "representation" of Canberra - and thats where the fault lies. to me its like

      "we've run out of ideas, what can we do, oh look, some artist with a link to Canberra has a personal design for a hot air balloon. don't know what the back story is (and we don't want to know), but lets fund it, because we can't think of anything else"

      If it was me I would have created a hot air balloon using a gaggle of comical representations of famous politicians - could have been very interesting and actually representative of what Canberra exists for.

      Commenter
      The Chairman
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:51AM
    • Totally agree. This hideous (there is no other word for it) waste of rate-payers' money elevates Archer's whole Centenary thing to something beyond a joke. No connection, no sense, no accountability, and a sorry tale of totally squandered opportunities to do something meaningful.

      Commenter
      Karina
      Location
      Belconnen
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:53AM
    • Look, as a piece of art it might be fine, but have to agree with the majority of comments here (and I suspect majority of Canberrans) that this is totally off the mark! And to say there's an 'obvious' connection to Canberra's centenary? what???
      I really think most of the symbolic moments (like the 'very big day' and now this...) have been hijacked by the arty-farty crowd...and I'm no summernats or raiders type person, but I think it's really unfair that only a small portion of the community seems to be being catered for by Robyn Archer...perhaps in hindsight not such a good choice to run the centenary...?
      Anyway, back on topic, this piece of art...in terms of a centenary work, I reckon it's about as useless as tits on a....well....whale!

      Commenter
      drowningnotwaving
      Location
      canberra
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 12:17PM
  • Oh we've seen it alright ms Archer.

    And It's the most horrible piece of 'art' I've ever seen.

    Why oh why are our taxpayer dollars wasted on crap like this. The whole Centenary celebrations have been a joke.

    Commenter
    Freddie Frog
    Date and time
    May 10, 2013, 9:48AM
    • Well I think it's udderly fantastic.

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      Reid
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:00AM
      • WOW, typical of this Government wasting money on art (garbage) like this.

        You dead set need your head read if you voted for these clowns.

        Commenter
        Muzza
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        May 10, 2013, 10:02AM
        • If I could just get the connection between the Skywhale, (that we don't even own and have no say in where and when it goes) and Canberra celebrating 100 years it might just make sense, but try as I might I just can't get it. What a complete waste of money, money that could have been spent so wisely elsewhere. Has this Government completely lost the plot.

          Commenter
          Tara
          Date and time
          May 10, 2013, 10:06AM
          • Over trees by our lake a monstrosity sails.
            Sang "whale, tit whale, tit whale".

            Commenter
            Extra
            Location
            Ordinary
            Date and time
            May 10, 2013, 10:10AM

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