41st Annual Meeting, Contemporary Art Session 2. Film: Conserving Calder's Circus, with commentary by Eleonora Nagy, Whitney Museum of Art

For me, one of the many highlights of this meeting was seeing the wonderful film produced by the Whitney Museum of Art about the work to conserve Alexander Calder’s Circus, (1926-1931). If you missed the session, the 10 minute film is available on the Whitney’s website.
Though the film includes a lot of contextualizing information about the work and the circus in America, Eleonora Nagy expanded on a number of thoughts within the video which I found quite interesting. I wasn’t planning on writing this post when I sat down in the session so I didn’t take notes at the time, but I wanted to share my thoughts and provide a place for others to share their’s.
During her remarks, Nagy related Calder’s Circus to the the Humpty Dumpty Circus toys made by  the Schoenhut Company of Philadelphia over the first half of 20th century which allowed children to create their own circuses.

Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus at Shelburne Museum
Part of the Shelburne Museum’s Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus, c. 1903-1926.

The other miniature circus from Shelburne’s collection that came to my mind is by Edgar Decker Kirk, made 1910-1956 in Harrisburg, PA, though I’d imagine that its unlikely that Calder knew of it. Kirk, a brakesman on the Pennsylvania railroad, made the 3,500 pieces using a penknife and a foot-powered jigsaw and occasionally set up his circus, complete with a tent, in his backyard for the enjoyment of the neighborhood kids.
Kirk Circus from the Shelburne Museum collection
Edgar Decker Kirk (1891-1956), Kirk Circus, 1910-1956. Image courtesy Shelburne Museum.

Calder’s figures were based on actual circus performers of the time, and  included side show performers as well as main circus performers, unlike the Schoenhut and Kirk circuses which do not depict the side show. And unlike real life circus performances, Calder interspersed the side show acts with the main circus acts during the performance of his circus.
Apparently, there’s more footage that was made but not included in this video. I hope the Whitney considers releasing that material in the future.