Skywhale, the mystical beast of the Canberra skies, will soon have a companion - father figure carrying a litter of babies to keep her company.
After revealing last month that artist Patricia Piccinini's distinctive hot air balloon had been donated to the National Gallery of Australia, gallery director Nick Mitzevich has announced the commission of a companion piece, to be launched early next year.
Skywhalepapa will fly alongside the original, divisive balloon, forming what the gallery describes as a "Skywhale family" to fly over regional cities in Australia.
"These two 35-metre-high sculptures will be on display regardless of whether they have a gallery, because the sky is the canvas for these works," Mr Mitzevich said.
"They'll give you a take on what a modern family in the 21st century might look like through the eyes of one of Australia's most creative, surreal artists."
Canberra-educated Piccinini said the new addition to the family would be "powerful, masculine figure, but he also a caring one".
"He'll be carrying a litter of babies, so it's about shared parenting and engaged fatherhood."
She said people had often asked her over the years whether Skywhale had babies.
"She's with another of her kind," she said.
"Now I have a story, I have narrative."
Piccinini created Skywhale as a commission for the ACT government to mark the centenary of Canberra in 2013.
From the moment it was unveiled, it caused controversy over its striking appearance and $300,000-plus pricetag.
But while the year-long Centenary celebrations featured a vast range of high-profile events, the Skywhale attracted more publicity than any of them, with photos, videos and headlines on international news agencies, from the UK to Lebanon to Venezuela.
Piccinini told The Canberra Times in 2014 that she had been surprised and despondent at the response to her work, with the raging about the cost of the work, rather than the work itself.
"To be honest, I always imagine people have the same responses as me to my work, and I always think that they'll instantly fall in love with the work, and I'm always shocked to find that people don't love her as much as I do," she said.
She said the work, far from being intended to provoke, was in fact a meditation on the natural world, and how our ecological system is changing.
"If you look at something like a walrus, that's a really strange creature. I mean honestly, it's extraordinary," she said.
"Real nature is much more extraordinary and amazing than anything I could come up with. I don't feel that I'm coming up with something just to offend people, but I am talking about ideas to do with difference, and how we relate to difference and how we see the animals and the nature around us that we change for our benefit."
Mr Mitzevich said he would relish the discussion that a Skywhale companion would provoke.
"I know everyone will have an opinion about it, and I'm super-excited to hear about what people have to say about Skywhalepapa and the return of Skywhale," he said.
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