A Koala Bassoonist! A Rhino Strongman! In Bjørn Okholm Skaarup’s grand “Circus” installation, the animals themselves are running the show. The artwork, entitled Circus, is made of bronze and steel. It measures 78 x 39 x 117 inches. The full installation is on view through May, 2023 at Cavalier Gallery, 530 West 24th Street in Chelsea.
Comprised of 33 sculptures, the installation is inspired by the late-nineteenth century circus where costumes, banners, and colors created a neo-baroque symphony of larger-than-life forms and displays. Each sculpture within the installation highlights the spectacle of color and movement celebrated by a menagerie several years in the making.
Previously showcased at Art Miami 2022 and Art Palm Beach 2023, the 6 x 10-foot circus ring is inhabited by a menagerie of clowns, magicians, acrobats, dancers, and musicians. In the artist’s contemporary bestiary, or classical book of animals in bronze, each sculpture presents a whimsical story or allegory to decipher, with sources ranging from ancient fables and art history to music and modern animation. Here, the artist pays tribute to this spectacle of color and movement with a Hippo Ribbon Dancer, Rhino Strongman, Giraffe Clown, Sea Lion Juggler, Elephant Magician, Bear Roller Skater, Crocodile Tightrope Walkers, and many more.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve been drawn to the traveling circus that occasionally reached my birth town in the Danish province,” said sculptor Bjørn Okholm Skaarup. “To prepare for this installation, I spent several years collecting paraphernalia from the golden age of the American circus to fully immerse myself in that past artform with the understanding that the idea of the old circus had to be reconsidered and revised, especially in its mistreatment of wild animals. With “Circus,” I wanted to pay tribute to the spectacle of color and movement and can assure that not a single animal was harmed in the making of this large bronze menagerie.”
About the artist ~ Danish artist Bjørn Okholm Skaarup’s unique sculptures draw inspiration from classical mythology, late Renaissance, as well as 20th century American pop culture, while reinterpreting both classical and modern artistic themes.
From 1994-2004 Skaarup was an artist for the Danish National Museum and employed as a scientific artist at the Department of Forensic Medicine and Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. In addition to his career as a self-taught sculptor, Skaarup is an accomplished author and illustrator of books on history, archaeology, and anatomy.
Recent solo exhibitions in the U.S. include a public installation of the monumental Hippo Ballerina in Pershing Square Plaza West, New York, NY (previously located at Dante Park at Lincoln Center, New York, NY; 22nd Street and Broadway next to the iconic Flatiron Building, New York, NY; and 5th Avenue in front of the Girl Scouts of America Headquarters, New York, NY); Carnival of the Animals at Cavalier Galleries in New York, NY, the Washington National Cathedral, DC, and at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT. In 2015, the Collectivité of St. Barthélemy (St. Barth’s) acquired a suite of 10 animal sculptures for public display throughout the island. Skaarup’s sculptures have also been exhibited at the Koldinghus Museum, Denmark; and in Italy at Museo del Cenacolo di Ognissanti, Florence; the Four Seasons Hotel, Florence; and Hotel Cipriani, Venice. Bjørn Okholm Skaarup lives and works in New York City. He is a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.
Skaarup holds a Master’s degree in History and Art History from the University of Copenhagen, and a PHD in History from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. He has furthered his education with post-doctoral studies at the Warburg Institute, London and Columbia University, New York. He lives and works in New York City.
The whimsical and wonderful works of Bjørn Okholm Skaarup are not new to New York. Here are a few of his large-scale sculpture pieces, some currently on view.
While you’re at Cavalier Gallery, don’t miss Mark S. Kornbluth: DARK, on view through April 15, 2023.