'Flying' art blows away from Australian festival

SYDNEY- Australian arts festival organisers said Monday they were devastated that a huge helium-filled sculpture had to be taken down after parts of it floated away soon after it was unveiled.
Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno's "Cloud City" -- described as a balloon-like, floating sculpture depicting a cloud formation -- was 18 months in the planning before its debut at the Perth International Arts Festival.

But just hours after it was inflated on Saturday in a park in the centre of the Western Australian capital, parts of the transparent artwork were carried away by gusts of wind, even though it was anchored to the ground.
"We had a wonderful start. We had a glorious launch and a very nice party to christen it and to acknowledge all those that supported us and then... it blew away," festival general manager Julian Donaldson told AFP on Monday.
"It's such a shame. We are very, very devastated."
In a statement, the festival said some of the 12 modules which made up the sculpture were ripped apart, sending their internal bladders into the atmosphere.
One part of the work -- which measured 27 metres (90 feet) long, 15 metres wide and six metres high -- was found 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) away in waters off Perth but Donaldson said some of the sculpture had disappeared entirely.
He said it was too early to say what had caused the technical fault.
"There's always a risk when you commission a new work for any genre, and then the risk escalates when you commission outdoor works in the visual arts realm," he said.
"It was a risk but our risk management plan provided for a maximum wind speed and we didn't exceed that maximum wind speed at the time that that material failure occurred."
Donaldson would not comment on how much the artwork had cost and said the incident would not prevent organisers from working again with Saraceno, who was unable to accompany the sculpture to Australia due to illness.
"I think festivals in particular need to remain brave and courageous in the face of these sorts of incidents," he said.

Monday, February 21st 2011

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