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Tag: David Zwirner gallery New York

New York; guest writer;Wayne Northcross on “The Most Incredible Thing’ at New York City Ballet

February 2, 2016, David H. Koch Theater
Original Cast: Taylor Stanley, Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar Ask la Cour, Russell Janzen, Tiler Peck  ;  Length: 45 Min
Costumes by : Marcel Dzama, supervised by Marc Happel
Set by: Marcel Dzama
Lighting by: Brandon Stirling Baker

Justin Peck’s  “The Most Incredible Thing “premiered on February 2, 2016, at NYCB’s annual New Combinations Evening.  Peck and composer Bryce Dessner (The National) had invited visual artist Marcel Dzama to collaborate with them on a new work for New York City Ballet; Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Most Incredible Thing”is  a lesser-known fairytale by the Danish author published in 1870.

I had the honour to be invited by my dear friend and wonderful writer Wayne Northcross to enjoy  this fabulous performance.  Wayne Northcross had been commissioned to write for the New York Observer, but few days ago  he  delivered to me a splendid text to be  hosted at VKblog.


“I have been following visual artist Marcel Drama and ballet choreographer Justin Peck for months leading up to premiere of the New York City Ballet’s The Most Incredible Thing, their collaborative ballet based on the 1870 story by Hans Christian Andersen. I hadn’t been hanging outside the David Koch Theater trying to sneak a peek backstage at the dancers, sets and costumes I’ve heard so much about. No. I have been following Peck and Dzama on Instagram, marveling at how much I could preview of Dzama’s highly detailed and beautiful sketches for the costumes and sets as well as at Peck’s posts of dancers en pointe, executing jetes or arabesques. My favorite image is one Peck posted a few weeks ago of him and Dzama, smiling and sitting cross-legged on stage in front of Dzama’s painted backdrop of a double-headed firebird. This image got me thinking about how collaboration among artists from various disciplines can either ignite or spark a mutually creative enterprise or how competing and highly unique abilities can make partnering go up in flames. Then I attended a dress rehearsal after which I stopped looking so much at Instagram. Seeing the ballet in person or gleaning aspects of it on my phone, two things became quite clear: the production is stunningly beautiful and fully realized, full of visual and technical complexities; Drama and Peck have arrived at a seamless, mutually beneficial collaborative style.



Sterling Hyltin and Taylor Stanley in Justin Peck’s “The Most Incredible Thing” Photo credit @ Barbara Anastacio resource: NYC Ballet Photo blog


Tiler Peck in Justin Peck’s “The Most Incredible Thing” Photo credit @Barbara Anastacio,                                               resource: NYCBalletPhotoblog

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of a king who declares that whoever in his kingdom creates the most incredible thing in the world will be awarded the hand of the princess and half the kingdom could be seen as story ballet primer. All the dramatic elements are here. Fantastically costumed characters, a battle between the forces of good and evil, magic, and frustrated romance. In Peck’s adaptation the main characters have been tweaked a little but still include The Creator of the most incredible thing, a large magical clock, The Princess, The King, and The Destroyer of said clock. The cast grows to accommodate 45 dancers and 11 children who make up the allegorical and symbolic figures and who emerge from the clock: Three Kings, Adam & Eve, The Cuckoo Bird, Four Seasons, Five Senses, Nine Muses. A lot of bodies for Peck to choreograph—at one point all the dancers are on stage at the same time. For Dzama this requires a lot of patterned tights, feathers, headdresses, masks, swords, and spears. 37 costumes in all. Not as easy as it looks, but a seamless collaboration between the two makes it seem so.

New York City Ballet The Most Incredible Thing, costumes Photographer: Erin Baiano 646.228.5917

“The Most Incredible Thing”; costumes, photo@ Erian Baiano


Gonzalo Garcia, Jared Angle, and Daniel Applebaum The Most Incredible Thing, costumes New York City Ballet Photographer: Erin Baiano 646.228.5917Three O’Clock: The Three Kings, dancers Gonzalo Garcia, Jared Angle, Daniel Applebaum. Photo @Erin Baiano

You are meant to see the creation and destruction of this most wonderful thing by the Destroyer in the ballet as an allusion to the artist’s struggle to create and express his or her artistic genius in a fickle and easily distracted world. You could also push the story’s symbolism further to include the push-pull dynamic of collaboration that Peck and Dzama had to go through to create and destroy a little piece of their own unique vision, sublimating autonomy in service of the In a collaboration consensus and integrity are key goals. Dzama developed the costumes over time, downscaling his initial ideas to fit Peck’s choreography. For his part Peck had to give more room to accommodate Dzama’s version, which for him was a new way of working. (Wayne Northcross) 


Indiana Woodward backstage wearing a costume from Justin Peck’s “The Most Incredible Thing”,photo credit@Barbara Anastacio; resource: NYCBalletPhotoblog

Marcel Drama, is represented by David Zwirner Gallery, New York/London

Zurich; ‘Alice Neel’ at Thomas Ammann Fine Arts AG

A short trip to Zurich last Friday afternoon visiting Thomas Ammann Fine Arts AG, for an extraordinary exhibition ‘Alice Neel’( b. 1900 – d. 1984)  at the beautiful villa on the hills of Zurich.   Thomas Amman Fine Arts in collaboration with the Estate of Alice Neel has selected and exhibits fourteen paintings which cover all periods of the artist’s career,  significant and representative of her time.  This is the first Alice Neel exhibition in Switzerland.


Alice Neel was born 1900 in Philadelphia and was trained at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Partly influenced by the thoughts of Robert Henri – a former teacher at her school – who had written them in his book The Art Spirit, Neel set about painting scenes from life, and “told the truth the best I was able.” After the end of her marriage with the Cuban painter Carlos Enríquez, Neel became a single mother keeping herself and her children above water with grants by the government-sponsored WPA. Early on Neel had left-wing beliefs and also a strong social consciousness, which had a bearing on her idiosyncratic choice of sitters. In each of her neighborhoods, Greenwich Village, Spanish Harlem and Upper West Side, she painted neighbors, family members, casual acquaintances, and interesting people she came across. She was an independent spirit who did not paint on commission, and paid no attention to the fashions of art, as she was devoted to realist depiction in an era of increasing abstraction…(Thomas Amman Fine Arts press)



photos @ Janosch Vögeli,  Thomas Amman Fine Arts, AG

“….While Neel often felt ambivalence towards post-war abstraction, on some occasions condemning it, and at other times acknowledging its prescient value, she was in essence psychologically motivated and sought to interact directly with the emotional dynamics of portraiture. That she is intensely aware of the dichotomous tensions in post-war American painting is acknowledged in the portrait of Georgie Arce. The painting may be seen as emblematic of her crucial period of transition since in the post-war decade she had survived with her two children largely on public assistance along with few sales.” ( from the essay by Mark Gasbourne on the published illustrated catalog for the exhibition) 

It was a beautiful experience to see this extraordinary exhibition, and a treat to have a tour of Alice Neel’s work by  Han Byul Jung, the art historian in-house at Thomas Ammann Fine Arts.   The gallery/villa holds a unique setting in Zurich hills (Amman villa was built in 1930 by the Swiss architect Otto Rudolf Salvisberg).

IMG_8225 (2)

 garden view,  villa Thomas Ammann Fine Arts,  sculpture by Cy Twombly, photo@VK

view of the exhibition from the north room, photo @VK

 …although her work was highly regarded in bohemian New York, success came late.  Her solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974, The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia, 1975, and her inclusion in the groundbreaking exhibition Women Artists: 1550-1950 at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, 1977, marked a breakthrough. In Europe, her paintings and drawings were-until recently-little known. … (Doris Ammann & Georg Frei, published catalog, 2015) 


Alice Neel in New York City at David Zwirner gallery, May 2012


a beautifully illustrated catalog, 2015,  is published by Thomas Amman Fine Art,  with an essay by Mark Gisbourne.

‘...The rupture following the US involvement in the Second World War created a cultural elision in American art and was to totally change the perception of painting and particularly traditional genres such as painted portraiture. Against the background of Clement Greenberg’s ‘high modernism,’ the portrait of many became seen as a quaint and unfashionable entity. Painting evolved into questions about the processes of abstraction and surface autonomy, or compositional systems of material construction, thereby diminishing the portrait along with other genres that dealt primarily with the individuated subject matter.” (from Mark Gisbourne’s essay) 

See gallery exhibition installation views at Thomas Ammann Fine Arts, AG  and for more information, see on Alice Neel special site. There are some amazing articles by wonderful writers that you may read here, please note a wonderful “Painted Truths: Showing the Barbarity of Life: Alice Neel’s Grotesque” by Jeremy Lewison 





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