Charles Pétillon fills Covent Garden market with white balloons

Charles Pétillon fills Covent Garden market with 100,000 white balloons

French artist Charles Pétillon has installed a giant cloud of balloons under the roof of the 19th-century Market Building in London's Covent Garden (+ movie).

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London

Unveiled today, the Heartbeat installation is the latest in Pétillon's Invasions series – in which he uses white balloons to fill spaces – but is his first live project in the UK.

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London
Photograph by Charles Pétillon

The inflatable sculpture incorporates 100,000 white balloons that form a meandering trail through the south hall of the Grade II-listed building. A piece of the historic market appeared to have broken free of its stone base in a previous installation by London designer Alex Chinneck.

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London
Photograph by Charles Pétillon

"The balloon invasions I create are metaphors," said Pétillon. "Their goal is to change the way in which we see the things we live alongside each day without really noticing them."

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London

"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," he added.

Measuring 54 metres in length and 12 metres in width, the installation is held in place below the market's pitched roof and supporting arches, and above its walkways and sunken arcades. A gently pulsating white light, designed to mimic a heartbeat, illuminates the structure from within.

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London

"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," Pétillon said.

"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."

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London

A series of wires are used to suspend the cluster from the building's metalwork, so none of the balloons touch any of the surfaces.

Charles Petillon Heartbeat balloons installation at Covent Garden market London

Heartbeat will remain in place until 27 September 2015. Other installations in London at present include Frida Escobedo's Aztec-inspired platforms at the V&A museum and a pair of spiral slides attached to the Hayward gallery as part of an exhibition of work by Carsten Höller.