Skywhalepapa is a massive, ten-storey high father but he is not threatening. Instead his strength is comforting. One of things that I love about Skywhalepapa is that it is a sculpture, but it is also a performance—an event. I imagine visitors assembling to watch Skywhalepapa coming to life. They notice another figure in the morning sky as Skywhale flies over, and Skywhalepapa ascends to follow her into the heavens. It is a simple story, but a beautiful and uplifting one. With a single skywhale figure we have a character, but with the two we have a relationship and a narrative”
— Patricia Piccinini


This exhibition in the Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery presents the development of Patricia Piccinini’s hot-air balloon skywhale family Skywhale and Skywhalepapa ­– through studio drawings, 3D models and an interview with the artist.

The skywhale family look like large friendly whales. They float in the sky rather than the sea. Skywhalepapa holds multiple babies in his claws. For the artist this reflects the changing role of male caregivers and celebrates a father’s capacity to love and support. Together, Skywhale and Skywhalepapa describe different ways of thinking about family and gender roles.

Go to the Skywhales Learning Resource for primary students.

Skywhale and Skywhalepapa will take to the skies of Canberra in February, 2021 – see Skywhales: Every heart sings to learn more.

Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery and Studio and associated programs are made possible through the generous support of Education Patron, Tim Fairfax AC. Skywhales: every heart sings is a Balnaves Contemporary Series project. Skywhalepapa has been commissioned with the assistance of The Balnaves Foundation

Curators: Jaklyn Babington and Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax

Supported by

National Touring Partner


Patricia Piccinini appears in