Arts Desk

Rate of Inflation

In September, Artisphere brings Andy Warhol's celebrated 1966 installation "Silver Clouds" to Rosslyn. But not without a little help. Inflating all 150 of Warhol’s Scotchpak-made metalized plastic film balloons, and keeping them inflated, requires a lot of helium: approximately 1,850 cubic feet, according to Artisphere Executive Director José Ortiz. A global helium shortage makes that a pricey proposition, so Artisphere is trying to raise $10,000 toward maintenance and exhibition costs for the five-week exhibit. Here’s a look at the installation, by the numbers.

750 Silver Clouds
The Warhol Museum will ship 750 deflated balloons from Pittsburgh to Northern Virginia. Each week Artisphere will place 150 Silver Clouds in the Terrace Gallery. At the end of every week, the balloons are swapped out for fresh ones.

13 cubic feet
Each balloon measures 36-by-51 inches in size and roughly 12 inches in depth, about 13 cubic feet total.

1,850 cubic feet of helium
That’s how much helium Artisphere expects to use over the exhibit’s run, according to Ortiz.

2.5 cubic feet of helium per balloon
Each is about one-fifth helium and four-fifths air.

About $2,000
That’s the cost of the helium alone. According to Stan Rosen at Ballroom Balloons, prices for helium have doubled in the last year and tripled over the last two years. A 300-cubic-foot tank of helium—the largest one that Ballroom Balloons offers—rents for a bit more than $300. Six large tanks will just about cut it for Artisphere.

10 billion cubic feet
Volume of the helium left in the U.S. National Helium Reserve, which is located in a reservoir near Amarillo, Texas

4 billion
Number of Silver Clouds that could be inflated using the entire U.S. National Helium Reserve

1
Number of D.C. musicians in the disbanded group Helium

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