From children toys to military industry air-filled forms have found its purpose in almost every segment of human life, including art. Though the roots of inflatable art can be found in 18th-century hot air balloons that were at times embellished with striking art designs, until recently inflatable objects were associated almost solely with advertising, children entertainment and holiday decorations. Inflatable art is a relatively recent form that originated in the 1960s when artists Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg created their first air-filled pieces whose purpose was purely artistic. Andy Warhol’s 1966 Silver Clouds installation composed of numerous pillows-like objects filed with helium and oxygen represents a pivotal work in that regard. Inflatable art reached its peak in the works by Jeff Koons and Paul McCarthy who used inflatable artworks to blow up everyday objects to the point of unfamiliarity, thus detaching them from their usual appearance and purpose. And while the inflatable art by Jeff Koons still keeps the likeable form of the adorable objects on which it’s based on, artist Paul McCarthy newer fails to gross us out, by adding a touch of malice to cherished childhood myths and icons and by placing them in violent or sexually deviant situations.
Today inflatable art seems to be more prevalent than ever with an incising number of air-filled peaces created an over the globe after 2010. Many artists use inflatables to explore the complex subject matter such as identity and violence but also question the role of materials in art. Playing with scale, color and the lightness of balloons, these artists have always been keen to experiment and break additional grounds.
Below, the most interesting examples of inflatable art
Editor’s Tip : Blow-Up: Inflatable Art, Architecture and Design (Art & Design)
If you want to learn more about inflatable art we suggest to take a look at Blow-Up: Inflatable Art, Architecture and Design (Art & Design) one of the best books on the topic written by Sean Topham, available on Amazon. This work will help you learn more about the topic as it explores the technological and philosophical history of inflatable art, architecture and design up to the present day, examining the best practices of its use in all aspects of life. The author argues that, although inflatable objects have been around for centuries, scientists, architects, artists and manufacturers keep rediscovering this deceptively simple technology. Widely used on music festivals and video works inflatables are slowly finding their way to galleries all over the globe.
Andy Warhol - Silver Clouds, 1966
When Andy Warhol was introduced to scotchpac, a metalized plastic material that could be heat-sealed to contain gas he immediately got the idea of making clouds out of it. Subsequently, Silver Clouds installation was created. The reflective clouds were filled with oxygen and helium and then released into gallery walls. The bubbles floated thought the space bumping into each other and the gallery visitors. The viewers also got the opportunity to interact with the installation and go back to their childhood by playing with the simmering bubbles that surrounded them.
Featured image : Andy Warhol – Silver Clouds, 1966 photo via currentart.com
Jeff Koons - Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), 1979
Celebrated American sculptor, Jeff Koons began creating balloon artworks in the late 1970s. It was then that the artist began to experiment with readymades by purchasing inflatable toys from discount stores and turning them into sculptures. Jeff Koons would make sculptures by aligning the inflatable toys again mirrored and transparent plexiglass tiles.Rabbits and flower represented the main subjects of his readymades that served as a base for many of his later steel works.
Featured image : Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), 1979
Paul McCarthy - Complex Pile, 2007
Inflatable sculptures can be quite and cuddly but they can also gross us out. A no one does it better than Paul McCarthy. His Complex Pile artwork for instance, represents a monumental pile of shit placed in highly accessible public space. While the city centers and open spaces are usually reserved for the heroes and depictions of historical battles, the artist situates a big pile of excrement to the grand outdoors thus making fun of the prudent qualities of sculptures located in public places.
Featured image : Paul McCarthy – Complex Pile, 2007
Paweł Althamer - One of Many, 2007
Polish Contemporary sculptor Paweł Althamer placed this massive large-scale portrait of himself in various public places all over the globe where it served as a kind of a temporary public sculpture. The nude image of a man floating in the sky aims to redefine the traditional perception of the art of sculpture while simultaneously referencing the human desire of having an ability to fly. The artist simultaneously looks down on the viewers like some sort of modern divinity but also remains vulnerable to the judgment of passerby’s eyes.
Featured image : Paweł Althamer – ONE OF MANY, 2007 via flickr.com
Marc Quinn - Breath, 2012
This sculpture by Marc Quinn represent an inflatable replica of his original Alison Lapper Pregnant piece made in 2005 and presented on Trafalgar Square in London. Massive depiction of a woman with a disability is made in the style of famous Greek sculptures like Venus de Milo. The sculpture explores the idea of heroism while simultaneously raising the question why are the squares of large cites reserved for the statues of war generals and not for contemporary heroes like the woman who pursues an art career and raises her son despite being disabled from birth.
Featured image : Marc Quinn – Breath via designboom.com
Tam Wai Ping - Falling into the Mundane World, 2013
Tam Wai Ping’s Falling into the Mundane World reference the populous reality of life in Hong Kong but also the issues concerning our modern society. The images of a woman and a cockroach turned upside down and immersed into the ground represent the omnipresent indifference toward the violence in the modern world. But the artwork also references the contemporary art and its propensity toward producing spectacle.
Featured image : Tam Wai Ping – Falling into the Mundane World via artasiapacific.com
Tadao Cern - Black Balloons, 2016
The rising star of contemporary art scene Tadao Cern attracted the attention of the media and the crowd at this year’s ART.FAIR Cologne with his Black Balloons, inflatable art series. The artist used both heavy and light gas to create two lines of balloons that represent each other’s reflection in space. Beautify simple and polished to the max, the minimalist yet fascinating monochromatic artwork by Tadao Cern evokes the feeling of childlike curiosity while simultaneously evoking the emotions of panic, excitement, humility, and admiration.