A Giant Mirrored Balloon Will Float Across Massachusetts This Summer
Backyard barbecues across Massachusetts are in for a surprise this summer as a reflective hot air balloon floats over the state.
Come July, a giant mirrored balloon will travel from Martha's Vineyard to the Berkshires as part of a public art installation called New Horizon. Commissioned by the Trustees, the oldest land trust the world, the mylar-coated aircraft is scheduled to fly to seven different Trustees-owned properties over the course of 16 days.
Doug Aitken, the artist behind the lustrous, floating sculpture, called its journey a “21st-century road trip,” during a recent press preview. He explained the nomadic exhibition is meant to reflect the landscape of Massachusetts.
The balloon will debut at Long Point Wildlife Refuge in Martha’s Vineyard on July 12, where visitors will glimpse the island’s shores reflected on its glossy envelope. From there, it flies to the Farm Institute in Edgartown, the Holmes Reservation in Plymouth, the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside of Boston, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, and Naumkeag in Stockbridge. Its journey ends at Field Farm in Williamstown on July 28.
With each touchdown the balloon makes, the Trustees will host musical performances and conversations all rooted in the idea of the future. Artists scheduled to perform include Mac DeMarco, Kelsey Lu, and Jónsi.
“I love the idea of a culture ambush, something you don’t expect,” Aitken told Travel + Leisure. “That idea of breaking reality as you know it.”
In this way, explains Pedro Alonzo, the guest curator for the Trustees’ contemporary arts initiative, Art & the Landscape, the shimmering sculpture — carried by the wind — acts as a beacon for igniting conversations about urbanization, climate, art, and technology.
The balloon will be tethered to the ground during its stops. Visitors will be able to buy tickets to board the balloon, as well as attend events like sunrise viewings, dinners, garden parties, and more.
Beyond New Horizon’s site-specific celebrations, part of the exhibition’s magic is the otherworldliness of watching it float overhead on a summer's day. Alonzo says he thinks seeing the work will be a life-changing experience for many. He points to a small test flight Aitken did last summer, which garnered plenty of attention.
“When it landed, a car full of teenagers pulled up and said, ‘We saw the balloon! Oh my gosh! What’s going on?’ Alonzo said. “A farmer and his daughter came out of their tractor. The little girl was screaming ‘The balloon, the balloon!’”
Because of its scale, caliber, and ambition, Alonzo describes the exhibition as “un-New England.”
“This is not the kind of thing that happens regularly — and it’s not the kind of thing that happens in Massachusetts,” Alonzo said. “There are many wonderful, beautiful things to come out of the state, but they tend to be more academic, more research-driven, more sober and business-minded. This kind of art is very rare, and I see it as a real opportunity for people to experience something unique.”
See the exhibition’s flight path and performance schedule at thetrustees.org/newhorizon.