Mark Ryden collaborates with American Ballet Theatre to Bring Art and Dance Together

Mark Ryden, Dessert Counter, 2016, oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches, 45.7 x 61 cm, 22 1/2 x 26 3/4 x 1 1/4 inches, framed, 57.1 x 67.9 x 3.2 cm.

The Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea is currently presenting a collection of new work by Mark Ryden for the show Whipped Cream. The renowned Pop-Surrealist artist has collaborated with the American Ballet Theatre to design the set and costumes for the company’s latest production of the same name currently playing at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Over the course of his nearly 30-year career, Ryden has become best known for his fantastical settings and creatures with oversized heads and large eyes resembling that of a porcelain doll. In this exhibition, Ryden unveils various sketches, drawings, and paintings he did specifically for the production, an adaptation of Richard Strauss’s ballet known as Schlagobers (the Austrian word for Whipped Cream) which originally premiered in Vienna in 1924.

This current version is choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky who collaborated with Ryden as Ryden’s whimsical approach would fit perfectly with the ballet’s storyline. The plot centers on a group of children who celebrate their confirmation in a Viennese pastry shop where various treats come alive and perform various dances. When one young boy overindulges and gets sick to the point of going to a hospital, he falls asleep and dreams of the treats coming back to life in the form of entertaining characters.  

Princess Praline and Her Entourage, 2017, oil on canvas, 15 x 52 inches, 38.1 x 132.1 cm, 25 1/4 x 61 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, framed, 64.1 x 156.2 x 8.9 cm

One work that stands out entitled Princess Praline and Her Entourage is an elongated rectangular painting depicting the character of Princess Praline in a pink ballerina dress and many of the other intriguing characters in the show are lined up on either side of her including a giant white four-legged “Snow Yak” that Princess Praline arrives on who adorably sticks out its tongue with its big eyes wide open.  

Mark Ryden, The Carriage, 2017, oil on board, 20 1/2 x 35 3/4 inches, 52.1 x 90.8 cm, 27 3/8 x 42 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches, framed, 69.5 x 107.3 x 6.3 cm

Another painting in the show entitled Snow Yak features the aforementioned creature making its entrance in the young boy’s dreams with Princess Praline balancing on him with one leg. In the original sketch of Snow Yak, Ryden’s visions for how his design would play out on stage is evident with the outlines on two humans (dancers) drawn within the front and back of the creature’s body. A similar painting entitled The Carriage depicts an attractive pony with a long, wavy mane decorated with roses along with a fancy pink shield for her body, gracefully and obediently pulls an elegant chariot with four young children, two boys and two girls, looking out each window as the coachman sits in his chair out front.

Mark Ryden, Parfait Man, 2017, oil on panel, 19 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches
50.2 x 34.9 cm, 26 1/4 x 20 1/4 x 2 inches, framed, 66.7 x 51.4 x 5.1 cm

In addition to the paintings that depict specific scenes in the show, there are also individual paintings of these unique characters. Some that stand out are Nicolo, Parfait Man, Nurse Corps de Ballet, and Marzipan, Sugarplum, Gingerbread.


Mark Ryden: The Art of Whipped Cream at Paul Kasmin Gallery on 515 West 27th St., through July 21. The gallery is open Tue.-Sat. from 10 a.m.—6 p.m. A concurrent exhibition of more of Ryden’s work is on view at the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery at 70 Lincoln Center Plaza (Broadway at 63rd St.) through July 8. To see the full schedule of Whipped Cream performances, click here.

Mark Ryden, Marzipan, Sugarplum, Gingerbread, 2016, oil on panel, 14 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches, 36.8 x 49.5 cm, 21 1/2 x 26 1/2 x 1 1/8 inches, framed, 54.6 x 67.3 x 2.9 cm
Mark Ryden, Nurse Corps de Ballet, 2016, oil on panel, 17 x 11 inches, 43.2 x 27.9 cm, 25 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches, framed, 64.8 x 49.5 x 3.2 cm
Mark Ryden, Slivovitz, 2016, oil on panel, 14 x 7 1/2 inches, 35.6 x 19.1 cm, 20 7/8 x 14 x 1 1/8 inches, framed, 53 x 35.6 x 2.9 cm
Alison Martin

Alison Martin

Alison Martin Alison Martin is a lifelong resident of New York City. She loves to write and is very passionate about covering the top contemporary art exhibits in New York City and all over the world.

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