Uplifted in Covent Garden :: Pétillon’s Heartbeat installation

A cloud of 100,000 white balloons, stretching 54 meters in length, is currently looming over the south hall of Covent Garden. For someone who typically loathes crowds (and there is always heavy foot traffic in Covent Garden) I couldn’t resist seeing Charles Pétillon’s Heartbeat installation in person rather than just live vicariously through my Instagram feed. My awe of the luminescent white orbs hanging from above was instantaneous.

Charles Petillon 100,000 balloons at Covent Garden

100,000 balloons loom over Covent Garden’s market building

Pétillon’s Heartbeat installation is meant to emphasize the vibrancy & energy of the 19th century Market Building. The fact that he was able to create a piece of art that adds to the beautiful yet cavernous space of the south hall was no small feat.  It took a team of 25 to inflate the latex balloons of different sizes over five nights and four days to install within the building. What’s even more striking to me is the contrast of the installation to its backdrop; the suppleness of the balloons brought about a vulnerability against the cool metal and brick surroundings.  I never knew vulnerability could be quite as breathtaking.

Charles Petillon balloons at Covent GardenCharles Petillon 100,000 balloons at Covent GardenCharles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent GardenCharles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent GardenAt night south hall is made even more festive when the balloons are aglow. Gentle light began to pulsate within the installation as the sun starts to set. I was so taken with Pétillon’s balloons, I returned to Covent Garden the next evening to catch a glimpse at night. This time I was joined by fellow American expat & Londoner, Jess, for a refined dining of Shake Shack burgers & milkshake right under the glowing artwork, becoming a part of the Heartbeat experience.  Charles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent Garden at nightCharles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent Garden at nightCharles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent Garden at night

This installation also unexpectedly stirred something else in me.  I’m known to get homesick for the States periodically.  During a recent four week vacation spent in Boston, Maine and then New York City I kept pointing out to the Brit what I love/miss about different aspects of American life (as if that’s enjoyable for him). I often take for granted the charms of London and its rich culture.  As I took in the sight of 100,000 giant balloons and everyone under it, I knew I couldn’t be living in a better place right this moment.Charles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent Garden at nightCharles Petillon 100,000 balloons, Covent Garden at night

The Heartbeat installation will be up in Covent Garden’s Market Building until September 27th. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Be sure to visit sooner rather than later as some of the balloons are already showing signs of deflating (see below picture).
Petillon balloons at night Covent Garden

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