Review: Charles Pétillon and 100,000 white balloons

By Penny Craswell

One of the most spectacular sights I saw at the 2015 London Design Festival was Heartbeat, an installation of 100,000 white balloons at Covent Garden. Arguably not a work of design at all, but an art installation (and instant tourist attraction!), the work is simple, bold and works wonderfully well. I had seen photographs of the work before I went, but in person, the work is even better, extending beyond the eye can see (over 50 metres) and rippling with the wind, reminding the viewer that this is a cluster of balloons and not a solid sculpture.

The installation is installed at the 19th Century building in Covent Garden. Photo: Penny Craswell
The installation is installed at the 19th Century building in Covent Garden. Photo: Penny Craswell

The work is part of a series of photographs by French photographer Charles Pétillon who calls his series Invasions. In each scene, the white balloon is used, transforming a simple, childlike object into a an amorphous shape that changes our perception of the scene. In each photograph, the white balloons can be imagined as a white cloud, or a growth, depending on your perception, hence “invading” the scene. Read more