One of the things I love most about working in London is the amazing art installations that suddenly pop up out of nowhere to startle us out of our daily routines. Who would have guessed that the 19th century Covent Garden market would be suddenly taken over by a mass balloon invasion? Blown away by the prospect of witnessing 100,000 giant white balloons, I popped along during my lunch break to find out if it was all just a lot of hot air.
Famed for his balloon invasions in derelict buildings, basketball courts and cars, French artist, Charles Petillon aims to challenge our perceptions of everyday scenes. In his most ambitious work to date, Heartbeat is his first public art installation and first live work outside France. (You can see more of his work on display at a pop-up gallery on the Piazza at Unit 5, Royal Opera House Arcade.)
Stretching a staggering 54 metres in length and 12 metres in width, the balloon invasion takes on a strangely ethereal quality as gently pulsating white light illuminates the dark interior of the market like sunlight breaking through clouds.
Used to symbolise the heart of the area, the clever lighting effects reflect the history, energy and dynamism of the district in a striking juxtaposition of past and present.
The balloons brooding presence starts to feel a little unnerving and is made all the more surreal by the apparent nonchalance of the shoppers striding beneath. It seems that even a mass balloon invasion can’t sway us from the rush of urban life.
The installation takes around fifteen minutes to walk round and runs from the 27th August until the 27th September 2015.