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Skywhale leaves the haters behind on a world tour

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Canberra's iconic Skywhale is set to be taken overseas for appearances in China and Europe as one of its chief supporters says it only gets bad press in the national capital.

As the last official centenary event was staged on Wednesday, Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer revealed she would be using her contacts to have the hot-air balloon make overseas appearances and continue the publicity for the national capital beyond 2013.

Despite controversy continuing to haunt the taxpayer-funded artwork, Ms Archer said Skywhale was "probably the greatest success of any commission I've made in 25 years, 20 years''.

Ms Archer said Skywhale was up there with Vincent van Gogh paintings in being unappreciated at the time of its making, only to have its true value realised many years later.

She referred to comments made by Australia Council chair Rupert Myer, who helped to provide $50,000 in philanthropic funding to Skywhale via the Aranday Foundation. ACT taxpayers contributed $300,000 to the artwork by Canberra-raised Patricia Piccinini.

Ms Archer said Mr Myer had said that Skywhale "now joins one of the major artistic achievements of which there is an incredible history of people who said I really don't like it, and we shall include Van Gogh in that, but 10, 20, 50 years ahead, people recognise it as a great moment in public art. It's got a noble history''.


"For most people, for the great majority of people, they said, 'How cool, that Canberra did something like this','' she said.

Ms Archer said the balloon, after making front-page appearances in Melbourne last week, would likely be shown elsewhere in Australia and overseas.

"We're currently negotiating for appearances in Sydney, in Brisbane, in Beijing, in Shanghai,'' she said.

"I am about to talk to my contacts in Europe, and there is a guy who has been taking Australian companies to Europe for the summer festivals, particularly outdoor stuff, for 20 years. And I will approach him and say. 'Here is your perfect vehicle to tour the summer festivals of Europe'. So it has a fantastic life ahead and 99 per cent of people love it.

"It's not even a qualified success, it's an unqualified success.''

The Canberra Times is seeking clarification on who would receive any booking fees for interstate or overseas appearancesĀ  - the private owner of the balloon or the ACT Government.

Ms Archer said the detractors of Skywhale "are in such a small minority''.

"We have stats to say that it's all more positive than negative,'' she said, of the response to the artwork.

"The only place where it gets to be negative rather than positive, is in Canberra, the only placeĀ  And the only place that's more negative than positive is The Canberra Times. So the stats are very, very interesting. It [The Canberra Times] is by far the most negative coverage.''

Figures released by the Centenary of Canberra said there had been:

  • 20,491 unique visits to the skywhale.com website across 126 countries
  • 1010 uses of the hashtag on Instagram
  • 5200 mentions on Twitter
  • More than 35,000 uses of the Twitter hashtag
  • More than 123,000 views of the video series

The launch on Wednesday of Centenary Stories, an oral history project documenting the personal stories of Canberrans, is the last official community event on the centenary calendar.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said more than 1000 community events had been held from the One Very Big Day in March to the party in the shops to celebrate Canberra's 100th birthday.

"It's been a diverse year of fun events which have brought our community closer together but also a year of learning about how our city has grown over the past 100 years since it was established as the national capital in 1913," she said.

"I have particularly enjoyed attending events where I have had a chance to hear the stories of Canberrans including those who have lived here for 100 years as well as those who have moved here in more recent times.

"Everyone has a unique and interesting story to tell but the consistent message in most of those stories is the pride we have developed for our city."

Ms Gallagher also thanked Ms Archer "for her role in leading us through what has been a great year and also thank her for bringing her characteristic flare to so many of the events throughout the year''.