The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965

Solo en Inglès

Hear about the artists and artworks in this exhibition on this kid-friendly guide, made specially for kids 6–10 years old.

Alexander Calder, Calder’s Circus, 1926-1931

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Narrator: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, Mesdames et messieurs, to the circus!

Alexander Calder built this tiny circus during his years in Paris. He created a complete troupe of performers—from acrobats and animals to clowns and tightrope walkers—using ordinary household materials. Look closely and you’ll see everything from bits of cloth, yarn, and paper to rubber tubes, buttons, and bottle caps.

Calder didn’t design his circus as a three-ring spectacle. It’s more like the intimate, one-ring circuses he saw in France. Now I’d like to introduce two guys who started a traditional, one-ring circus here in New York City. Here’s Michael Christensen, Cofounder and Creative Director of the Big Apple Circus, remembering his circus days in Paris with Founder and Artistic Director Paul Binder.

Michael Christensen: We were a juggling act, a comedy-juggling act. We threw juggling clubs, our hats, our shoes, a rubber chicken, and from time to time a squirting fish named Ronald. Do you remember Ronald?

Paul Binder: I do. And what was funniest about our act is we started where everybody else left off. We started by dropping things.

Michael Christensen: Then once we dropped them—then we had to pick them up.

Paul Binder: Yeah.

Michael Christensen: And that wasn't always easy, and there was a lot of comedy to be had in just picking up one club.

Paul Binder: Or one squirting fish.

Michael Christensen: Named Ronald. Anyway, we found our home in the Nouveau Cirque de Paris. We walked into that ring and felt like home.

And there's an image that always stays with me, Paul and I, behind the curtain, Nouveau Cirque de Paris, looking into this wonderful world of the circus, and we look at each other as if we're nine years old, and we say, “Do you believe it?"

Michael Christensen and Paul Binder: We're in the circus! 

Narrator: We asked some more stars of the Big Apple Circus to explain what Calder’s performers are up to.

A photograph of an intricate sculpture of a circus.

Narrator: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, Mesdames et messieurs, to the circus!

Alexander Calder built this tiny circus during his years in Paris. He created a complete troupe of performers—from acrobats and animals to clowns and tightrope walkers—using ordinary household materials. Look closely and you’ll see everything from bits of cloth, yarn, and paper to rubber tubes, buttons, and bottle caps.

Calder didn’t design his circus as a three-ring spectacle. It’s more like the intimate, one-ring circuses he saw in France. Now I’d like to introduce two guys who started a traditional, one-ring circus here in New York City. Here’s Michael Christensen, Cofounder and Creative Director of the Big Apple Circus, remembering his circus days in Paris with Founder and Artistic Director Paul Binder.

Michael Christensen: We were a juggling act, a comedy-juggling act. We threw juggling clubs, our hats, our shoes, a rubber chicken, and from time to time a squirting fish named Ronald. Do you remember Ronald?

Paul Binder: I do. And what was funniest about our act is we started where everybody else left off. We started by dropping things.

Michael Christensen: Then once we dropped them—then we had to pick them up.

Paul Binder: Yeah.

Michael Christensen: And that wasn't always easy, and there was a lot of comedy to be had in just picking up one club.

Paul Binder: Or one squirting fish.

Michael Christensen: Named Ronald. Anyway, we found our home in the Nouveau Cirque de Paris. We walked into that ring and felt like home.

And there's an image that always stays with me, Paul and I, behind the curtain, Nouveau Cirque de Paris, looking into this wonderful world of the circus, and we look at each other as if we're nine years old, and we say, “Do you believe it?"

Michael Christensen and Paul Binder: We're in the circus! 

Narrator: We asked some more stars of the Big Apple Circus to explain what Calder’s performers are up to.


Alexander Calder, Calder's Circus, 1926–1931. Galvanized steel wire, fabric, rhinestones, thread, 13 3/8 × 6 × 8 1/2 in. (34 × 15.2 × 21.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from a public fundraising campaign in May 1982. One half the funds were contributed by the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust. Additional major donations were given by The Lauder Foundation; the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc.; the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous donor; The T. M. Evans Foundation, Inc.; MacAndrews & Forbes Group, Incorporated; the DeWitt Wallace Fund, Inc.; Martin and Agneta Gruss; Anne Phillips; Mr. and Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller; the Simon Foundation, Inc.; Marylou Whitney; Bankers Trust Company;   Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth N. Dayton; Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz; Irvin and Kenneth Feld; Flora Whitney Miller. More than 500 individuals from 26 states and abroad also contributed to the campaign. 83.36.22.1a‑c. © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York