It still seems downright amazing that in today’s economic climate one and a quarter million dollars could be raised in a mere fortnight, this May, to keep Alexander Calder’s The Circus at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York. According to Mayor Koch—who is clearly no expert on Aristotle—it would have been a “tragedy” for The Circus to be “lost forever,” especially to a foreign collection (Beaubourg perhaps?), but that was the threat. Earlier in the spring it had been announced that the sculpture, on loan to the Whitney since 1970, was to be sold by the Calder estate in order to meet tax obligations. In the end, half the money enabling the Whitney to buy the sculpture came from a foundation and the rest from some five hundred donors, the single nicest idea of the campaign being a Barnum & Bailey benefit performance.

Everybody likes circuses, right? So what’s...

 

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