A Circus…in a Museum?


Recently, while I was in New York City, I visited the Whitney Museum of American Art. I truly enjoyed the experience; unlike encyclopedic museums, the Whitney was small enough to enjoy in one, non-exhausting day. My sister and I journeyed from floor to floor, taking in the sights of the work of American greats. Yet, there was one work that really mesmerized us: Alexander Calder’s “Cirque du Calder.”

I was only marginally aware of Calder’s work before I saw “Cirque du Calder.” I knew that he made impressive structural mobiles that could be manipulated by a slight gust of air. But when I saw more examples of his work in the Whitney gallery, I knew that I had underestimated the scope of Calder’s work. Upon even further research, I found that Calder created works on paper, and sculptural objects of varying shapes and sizes.

“Cirque du Calder” specifically was fascinating. The gallery space featured a video screen which showed the video of Calder manipulating his circus (a clip is above) as well as a case which held all of the pieces which Calder used in his circus. The whimsy and light-heartedness of this work appealed to my child-like tendencies. I could not tear my eyes away from the screen as I watched wire horses galloping around a hand-built track, or a miniature ringmaster announcing the start of the circus.

Although I appreciate sober works of art, it is certainly a breath of fresh air to look at an art work in child-like wonder and grin.


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