100,000 giant white balloons fill Covent Garden's 19th Century Market Building

French artist Charles Pétillon has unveiled his first public art installation – and his first ever live work outside of France – in Covent Garden filling the grand interior of the 19th Century Market Building with 100,000 giant white balloons.

Uniting the world of art with world-class architecture, the installation has launched ahead of the London Design Festival and has been inspired by Covent Garden’s heritage as London’s first public square and the West End’s reputation as the beating heart of the city.

Weaving its way through the South Hall of the Grade II listed Market Building, 'Heartbeat' stretches 54 metres in length and 12 metres in width, and incorporates gentle pulsating white light to symbolise the beating of a heart and reflect the history, energy and dynamism of the district.

Pétillon said: “The balloon invasions I create are metaphors. Their goal is to change the way in which we see the things we live alongside each day without really noticing them. With Heartbeat I want to represent the Market Building as the beating heart of this area – connecting its past with the present day to allow visitors to re-examine its role at the heart of London’s life.

“Each balloon has its own dimensions and yet is part of a giant but fragile composition that creates a floating cloud above the energy of the market below. This fragility is represented by contrasting materials and also the whiteness of the balloons that move and pulse appearing as alive and vibrant as the area itself.”

The complex yet fragile composition represents Charles’ largest and most ambitious project to date and runs until 27th September.

Heartbeat forms part of Covent Garden’s ongoing cultural programme which transforms the district into an ever-changing, open-air art gallery. Last November, British artist Alex Chinneck added a touch of magic to the Piazza when a section of the 185-year old Market Building appeared to break free from its foundations and float into the air. Other artists that have created pieces for the area include Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Paul Cocksedge, Banksy, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Martha Fiennes as well as previous partnerships with the London Design Festival and Tate Modern.

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Via direct submission | Image credit: Paul Grover