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Calder and the Circus, a Tate Kids animation

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Calder’s Circus, or Cirque Calder in French, is a toy-size mechanical circus created by American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898–1976). The whimsical sculpture consists of more than 70 miniature figures and animals, as well as almost 100 accessories, all made with wire, wood, metal, cloth, cork, fabric, and string.

Calder's Circus at The Whitney Museum in New York City
Calder would often perform the circus for friends, family, and colleagues (like Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp), complete with music, sound effects, acrobats, and animals. From The Whitney:

“In Paris, Calder’s audience would sit on a low bed or crates, munching peanuts and using the noisemakers while Calder choreographed, directed, and performed Calder’s Circus, narrating the actions in English or French. Accompanied by music and lighting, performances could last as long as two hours.”

Today, the piece, created from 1926 to 1931, is widely recognized as a masterwork of 20th-century kinetic sculpture. In the Tate Kids animation above, figures and shapes pay homage to Calder’s signature Circus.

calder's circus by tate kids

• Who is Alexander Calder? from the Tate.
• Make Your Own Circus with Tate Kids.
• Alexander Calder: Calder’s Circus at The Whitney.

See Calder and his circus in action in these videos next.

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