Published: October 20, 2015
GREENWICH, CONN. — “Carnival of the Animals,” Danish sculptor Bjørn Okholm Skaarup’s first American museum exhibition, will be on view at the Bruce Museum October 31–January 3. The sculpture exhibition presents a contemporary bestiary — or classical book of animals — in bronze. Each of the 20 sculptures on view offers a whimsical story or allegory to decipher, inspired by ancient fables, art history or modern animation.
The title of the exhibition derives from the suite by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), Le carnaval des animaux, which famously translates animal attributes into music. Lions parade to a royal march, kangaroos hop in fifths across the piano keyboard and fossils chip away with xylophone beats.
Just as Saint-Saëns evokes animals in music, Okholm Skaarup interprets them in bronze. His majestic lion, traditional king of the animals, wears the crown and armor of a great monarch in the style of Medici court sculptor Giambologna yet he sits astride a rocking horse, a reference to his fleeting and jovial power. A cheetah rides a scooter to move faster, a giraffe stands on stilts to reach higher and a kangaroo bounces on a pogo stick — a “kængurustylte” in Danish.
The artist’s diverse sources are at once light-hearted and highly researched. He recreates Laocoön and his Sons, the Hellenistic marble showing a Trojan family enveloped by gargantuan snakes, as a group of monkeys playing with a garden hose — a nod to the tradition of art “aping” art. The Rhino Harlequin, clad in a yellow and blue diamond suit, awaits his tutu-ed Hippo Columbine, who at once evokes Edgar Degas’ “La petite danseuse de quatorze ans (Little Dancer Aged 14)” and Walt Disney’s Fantasia. A Dancing Bear is patinated in vibrant Fabergé-like colors, dressed as the Ballets Russes star Vaslav Nijinsky, while a Dino Paleontologist discovers an unknown fossil in the sediment: the Flintstone’s Flintmobile.
These indoor and outdoor sculptures display the vanishing art of large-scale bronze casting at its most versatile. They are at once accessible to young art enthusiasts, and rewarding to longtime students of art history.
“Bjørn Okholm Skaarups’s whimsical creations amuse and delight,” says Peter C. Sutton, the Bruce’s Susan E. Lynch executive director. “Our Night at the Museum family event on November 6 is well-timed, since this is a show that is sure to captivate children of all ages.”
A fully illustrated catalog accompanies this exhibition.
The Bruce Museum is at 1 Museum Drive. For information, www.brucemuseum.org or 203-869-0376.
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