It was while cycling over the New Cut to his former studio in Spike Island that Luke Jerram first had the idea to create a giant Moon.
The huge difference in the height of the water underneath the Bristol artist’s wheels as he cycled across Gaol Ferry Bridge is part of the world’s second largest tidal range – and it’s caused by the Moon.
Following an aborted attempt at displaying the finished model of the Moon at last year’s Balloon Fiesta where strong gusts of wind caused it to split, the spellbinding artwork has now been installed in the historic surroundings of the Great Hall at the Wills Memorial Building on the top of Park Street.
The ceremony to install a new chancellor at the University of Bristol has remained unchanged for more than 100 years, but at this week’s ceremony, Jerram’s Museum of the Moon will be in place high above the heads of the gathered academics.
“This is the first time that the artwork has been presented in such a magnificent space,” said Jerram, soon after the balloon had been installed in the Great Hall.
“It’s just exquisite, the architecture, the details, all the lighting, so I’m really pleased and proud to be able to present it here.
“And also for the people of Bristol to be able to see it, all my friends and family. To be able to see it in my hometown is really nice.”
The seven-metre diameter balloon was made by Cameron Balloons in Bedminster using detailed NASA imagery. At a scale of 1:500,000, each centimetre on the balloon represents 5km on the surface of the Moon.
Filled with air and held up by ropes, it also comes with its own music – a surround-sound composition created by Bristol’s BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer Dan Jones.
It’s also fitting for the balloon to be at the university as some of the first Moon rocks brought back to Earth by the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 were analysed by Bristol scientists for any signs of life.
“We love supporting local artists and helping their work become more available to the public,” said Dr Erik Lithander, pro vice-chancellor at the University of Bristol, while gazing up at the balloon from the floor of the Great Hall where on Wednesday he will be part of the audience gathered for the installation of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse as the university’s new chancellor.
“Although we throw the term around the term a little bit too loosely, I was left breathless when I saw this for the first time.
“The scale of it, the quality of the image; it just looks as if it has been painted into the sky by the world’s most incredible artist, and I suppose it has.”
The Great Hall will be open to the public from 10am to 8pm on Saturday, March 25 and from 10am to 5pm on Sunday, March 26. Luke Jerram will be giving talks at 11.30am and 4.30pm on Sunday.
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