Bjørn Okholm Skaarup: A Mythical Menagerie


PRESS RELEASE: Bjørn Okholm Skaarup: A Mythical Menagerie, Apr  4 - May 18, 2024

Bjørn Okholm Skaarup

A Mythical Menagerie

April 4 – May 18, 2024


The solo exhibition at 530 West 24th Street features more than 25 sculptures spanning the past decade of the artist’s oeuvre. An opening reception with Bjørn Okholm Skaarup will be held on Thursday, April 4, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

March 14, 2024, New York, NY—Cavalier Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of sculptures by Danish artist Bjørn Okholm Skaarup, including several new works exhibited for the first time in the U.S. Best known for his Hippo Ballerina, the most beloved of Skaarup’s Baroque-style circus of animals, the artist and historian draws inspiration from a wide breadth of sources, including ancient mythology, fairy tales and fables, and the Italian Renaissance. His masterful bronzes are steeped in historical tradition and informed by contemporary culture. A highlight of the exhibition is a nine-foot-tall mini-menagerie The Town Musicians of Bremen, inspired by Grimm’s beloved fairy tale which describes the journey of a ragtag fellowship of retired, domesticated animals—a donkey, dog, cat, and rooster—that unite to form an unlikely but irresistible band of musicians. Skaarup has animated the story characters in playful, textural detail, and there is a levity in the animals’ precarious postures that brings movement and musicality to the totemic assembly.

“Animals have often been represented as symbols and allegories; from national birds and symbols of empires to iconic figures in fables and fairy tales,” writes Skaarup. “The animals of this bestiary are similarly anthropomorphized as allegories of both human aspiration and human follies.”

Other new works making their U.S. debut include Skaarup’s interpretation of The Four Seasons as personified trees, a reference to the dendromorphic shapes and characters found in Renaissance-era art including Leonardo’s frescoes, Arcimboldo’s paintings, and Bramante’s columns. A spring tree awakens from her winter dormancy, arms outstretched, face tilted toward the sun. Summer is laden with verdant blooms and forest fauna; Autumn seeks shelter from the rain, his leaf cover replaced by the fungal growth of the season change. Winter is bare and frail, guarding against the chill as an owl finds shelter within his hollow.

Skaarup reaches back to ancient history and legend with two works focused on Alexander the Great, the 4th century BCE Macedonian king and military genius, whose relatively brief life (356–323 BCE) inspired The Alexander Romance, a fictional biography recounting both real and imagined exploits of the famous conqueror. Skaarup’s sculptures reference the fantastical legends that continued to flourish for centuries after Alexander’s death about his explorations of the heavens and the seas. The hero sits astride a primitive flying machine, lifted to the skies by griffins, and plumbs the ocean depths within a glass sphere, surrounded by giant creatures of the deep.  

A New York City favorite, Skaarup’s Hippo Ballerina graces the exhibition in a variety of dance positions. Dually inspired by Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1878–1881) and Disney’s Fantasia (1940), Skaarup’s 15-foot incarnation of the now-famous megaherbivore made her Manhattan debut in 2017 in Dante Park opposite Lincoln Center. From there, she entertained the public in the Flatiron District and outside the Girl Scouts of America’s New York headquarters before spending most of 2022 in Pershing Square near Grand Central Terminal. Her “little sisters” in bronze, wearing 19th-century leotards and tutus, will bring a familiar delight to gallery visitors. Hippo Ballerina is accompanied by a menagerie of circus friends, including Rhino Harlequin, Giraffe Tall Clown, Elephant Magician, Sea Lion Juggler, Bear Roller Skater, Racoon Boxer, Crocodile Cymbalist, and the master of ceremonies himself, the Lion Tamer, who embodies the upended power dynamics of this all-animal carnival.

Skaarup’s indoor and outdoor sculptures have been the subject of museum exhibitions throughout the world, most recently at the Accademia della Arte de Disegno, Florence, Italy—the first known academy of art inaugurated by Giorgio Vasari and Vincenzo Borghini in 1563. Other notable public exhibitions include the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut; the Koldinghus Museum, Kolding, Denmark; the Museo Cenacolo di Ognissanti and Four Seasons Hotel, Florence; Hotel Cipriani, Venice; and the Collectivité of St. Barth. The monumental Hippo Ballerina is currently on display outside the Ferguson Library, in downtown Stamford, Connecticut.


Bjørn Okholm Skaarup: A Mythical Menagerie

On view: April 4 –May 18, 2024

Artist reception: Thursday, April 4, 6:00–8:00 pm, 530 W 24th St, NYC

Gallery hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm

Private viewings by appointment: Call 212-570-4696 or email


About Bjørn Okholm Skaarup

Bjørn Okholm Skaarup was born in Rudkøbing, Denmark in 1973. From 1994 to 2004, Skaarup was an artist at the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen, before moving to Florence and receiving a PhD from the European University Institute in 2009. While in Florence, he studied the work of Renaissance sculptors Donatello, Cellini, and Giambologna, learning the vanishing art of large-scale bronze casting. He also wrote and illustrated books on history, archaeology, and anatomy.

In 2012, Skaarup was commissioned by the Koldinghus Museum, Kolding, a former Danish royal residence, to create four large reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Christian IV of Denmark. Skaarup was given his first solo U.S. museum exhibition at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2015. That same year, the Collectivité of St. Barth acquired a suite of ten animal sculptures for public display throughout the island. In 2020, Skaarup completed a portrait bust of Benjamin Ferencz (1920–2023), the last chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials, which was donated to the Nuremberg Palace of Justice on Ferencz’s 100th birthday.  

Bjørn Okholm Skaarup lives and works in New York City. He is a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.


Press Contacts:

Joellen Adae, Marketing Director, Cavalier Galleries

Lindsay Ebanks, Executive Director, Cavalier Galleries

Douglas McClemont, Director, Cavalier Gallery Chelsea