Jean Charles Petillon: Covent Garden

The news of a balloon installation across Covent Garden Market was enough motivation for me to take a detour and see it on my way home last night… and I’m so pleased I did! The floating cloud created by hundreds of balloons measures 54 metres long and 12 metres wide, encompassing the entire ceiling of the South Hall Market building. Created by French artist Jean Charles Petillon, the installation is called ‘Heartbeat’ and incorporates a pulsating light that moves across the piece, creating a mesmerising effect by slowly lighting up different balloons from one end of the installation to the other. Whilst I was captivated by the delicate balloons floating against the hard wrought iron structure of the old market building, it was equally enjoyable to see that it didn’t detract from normal everyday life in the market as the shops, cafes, street performers and public all functioned as normal below it. This is not the first time Petillon has used balloons in his installations – indeed he has filled derelict houses, cars and basket-ball courts with them in the past – but this is his most ambitious balloon project to date. Each one of his ‘invasions’ (the artists preferred term for these installations) is metaphorical, and this one is intended to represent the dynamic nature of Covent Garden market, and how it has been the beating heart of the area throughout history and into the present day. Somewhat surprisingly, I had no desire to pop any of the balloons as it looks so fragile and beautiful; the mere sight of just one slightly shrivelled balloon was enough to make me feel a little sad. As transient and fleeting as a real cloud, this installation is only floating above Covent Garden for a short time so catch it before it blows away on 27th September!

For more information visit his website