New exhibition celebrates 250 years of circus life

Circus Life: Art and Artistes, featuring the work of contemporary British artists, will be exhibited in Birkbeck's Peltz Gallery from 7 November - 12 December 2018.

Circus Work, Peter Lavery

The circus is coming to Birkbeck with new exhibition, Circus Life: Art and Artistes, opening on 7 November at the Peltz Gallery. The exhibition explores this fascinating and diverse art form and features paintings, drawings, photographs, films, ceramics and sculpture from artists working alongside the circus community today.  

Invented by impresario and trick horse rider Philip Astley in London in 1768, the circus has long ignited the imagination and wonder of its audiences. Its skills, traditions and iconography, as well as its global community of dedicated performers, have provided inspiration for the work of countless artists including Seurat, Renoir, Degas and Picasso.

Circus Life: Art and Artistes celebrates the 250th anniversary of Astley's remarkable creation; investigating circus' continuing appeal as a subject for visual artists through the eyes of recent and contemporary British practitioners. Their work has captured the people, places and performances which combine to make circus a unique way of life as well as a universally accessible form of live entertainment.

Presented by The Academy of Circus Arts and the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, the exhibition includes work by artists Peter Lavery, Kate Stone, John Stillman, Abel Kesteven and Curtis Tappenden; as well as prints by Laura Knight, and pieces by Clarice Cliff and Clifford Hall.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of performances, films and talks, and is curated by Julius Green, Director of the Academy of Circus Arts and a Fellow of the Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, as well as being Creative Director of Cirque Berserk!

Speaking of the exhibition Green says: “As the extraordinary nationwide programme of events marking the 250th anniversary of the invention of circus draws to a close, we look to the future with an appropriately lively and colourful exhibition celebrating the work of contemporary artists who take their inspiration from the circus; at a gallery situated only a couple of miles from where it all began in 1768.”

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