The Most Incredible Thing: Marcel Dzama Designs Costumes for the New York City Ballet

Marcel Dzama has a deeper connection to the world of childhood more than almost any other contemporary artist. His drawings teem with dancing bears, acrobats, ghosts, and armed cheerleaders, recalling illustrations from old books of fairytales. At the same time, Dzama uses this visual language to plumb the depths of the adult world: violence, erotic obsessions, the dark side of modern-day life. Consequently, Dzama was the perfect person to create the costumes and stage sets for The Most Incredible Thing. This new production of the New York City Ballet is based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s last fairytales. The story of the beautiful princess, the ingenious inventor, and the evil destroyer promises to be a highlight of this year’s theater season. For the performance, Dzama clothes a total of 56 dancers, including eleven children from the School of American Ballet. The artist, to whom an entire floor of the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt is devoted, transforms the young dancers into fabled creatures typical of his work that move through bizarre settings. The Most Incredible Thing brings Dzama’s drawings to life on the stage.
What at first appears playful and poetic has a serious background. Inspired by the German-French War of 1870, Andersen depicts the battle between culture and aggressors so incisively that it was very popular among the resistance movement in Denmark during World War II, when the country was occupied by Germany. And this parable is still valid today. “The whole thing is about the rise of art over tyranny or destruction,” says Marcel Dzama. “I had never read this story before and learned about it right at the time that ISIS was destroying Palmyra [in Syria] — I thought ‘Oh, this is so timely.’”

Apart from The Most Incredible Thing, the New York City Ballet is offering additional insight into Dzama’s cosmos. The artist is has put a work in the large lobby of the David H. Koch Theater. Influenced by classic films such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet, he created a retro-futurist multimedia installation that transforms the space into a kind of giant chess game. Dzama’s project is part of the Art Series the ballet has introduced to attract a new, young audience. Since 2013, installations and performances by artists including the French Street Art star JR and the duo FAILE from Brooklyn have aroused the enthusiasm of visitors who previously had no interest in classic ballet.

In addition, an exhibition of works jointly created by Marcel Dzama and Raymon Pettibon is on view at the David Zwirner gallery in New York.

Performances: 2/6, 2/11, and 2/19,
Free Public Viewing: 2/13-21

New York City Ballet: The Most Incredible Thing
from 2/2/2016

Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Forgetting the Hand
David Zwirner, New York
until 2/20/2016