Hundreds of helium balloons, some venetian blind string, and scavenged plants and objects from around Te Papa make up the museum's newest art installation.
The Silverings consists of more than 400 silver zero-shaped balloons and eight rolls of 30m mylar sheet, and floats across two storeys in Te Papa's Toi Art department.
"We got the balloons from two different party stores. It was hard to find enough balloons in New Zealand," said assistant curator of art Hanahiva Rose.
It took about five canisters of helium to fill the balloons, which rise in two groups on either side of the walkway leading to Toi Art.
"We will have to refill them with helium fairly regularly, possibly about once a week, to make sure that the artwork stays afloat," Rose said.
The piece, by Australian artist Mikala Dwyer, was first displayed in Berlin in 2010 and has since been re-presented in a number of exhibitions across Europe and Australia.
It has been modified for Te Papa and will remain a part of its permanent collection, meaning Te Papa will retain rights to the concept of the artwork.
Visitors can see the sculpture from below and get up close to it from the bridge across the gallery space.
"I think what is special about this artwork is how it kind of fills the space with presence and at the same time is basically entirely weightless, that's the kind of magic of it."
Rose hoped visitors would "experience a sense of wonder".
Te Papa staff and members of Dwyer's team assembled the artwork under Dwyer's direction, and her team members found items around the museum to weight it at the corners.
The items included a dust bucket filled with books, water bottles from a cooler, bags filled with dirt and succulents, and slabs of clay.
Dwyer said she was "thinking about how to float a void" when she came up with the piece.
"Most helium is helium-4, which is believed to have been formed during the Big Bang. It's ancient. Mylar is a high-tech, space-age material, which was used to insulate lunar modules. While many of my other works are earthbound, 'The Silverings' is trying to lift off. Nevertheless, the balloons leak and need to be pumped up. The work is constantly falling back to earth, confounding that idealism," she said.
The silver "0" forms of the balloons connect with Dwyer's use of circular forms since the 1990s. She is interested in the zero shape as a closed system: one that outlines an inside and outside, without a clear beginning or end.
The Silverings opens on Saturday and is on display until September 18. Entry is free.