A parade of the most beautiful circus costumes under the big top at the CNCS …

Like the parade when the circus comes to town, this exhibition will present, for the first time, magnificent costumes and finery from the greatest circus companies in the world. In their braided coats or leotards, decorated with painted motifs, embroidery and sequins – ringmasters, tragic and comic clowns, horse riders, acrobats, jugglers, animal tamers, trapeze artists and tightrope walkers will embody the magic of circus art in a flurry of color and light. The CNCS invites visitors to discover this universe from the first appearance of the modern circus in the 18th century to the mutations of the contemporary circus.

Elements presented in the exhibition
Costumes, accessories, trunks, paintings, photographs, posters, costume and makeup models, audiovisual documents, interviews with artists, costume designers and costume makers will be presented at the CNCS. These works come from the most prestigious circuses and circus families in the world: Fratellini, Bouglione, Cirque Plume, Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Phénix, Franco Dragone Entertainment Group. They come from the circuses themselves, but also from the rich collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, notably from the Performing Arts Department, as well as from private collectors, costume designers and craftsmen.

Backstage at the circus
To supplement the presentation of the wardrobe of these emblematic characters, the exhibition will bring visitors backstage. From the conception of the costume to its making, the talent of true craftsmen and traditional and more contemporary processes will be highlighted; as well as the indispensable complements of makeup, wigs, masks, shoes… An artist’s dressing room will evoke the physical transformation of the artist into a character ready to elicit laughter and emotion. With this presentation, the exhibition will also show the evolution of costumes used in the different acts, borrowing from military art as well as from ballet; from the fashion of exoticism as well as from history and contemporary art.

The fantastic history of the circus
From its origins in equestrian art in the mid 17th Century England, the circus spread throughout the entire western world and as far as the United States, Africa and China, creating a form of colorful popular show in perpetual renewal based on the elements which forged its identity: the ring, the big top, risk, prowess, laughter. Throughout its history the circus has been movement and metamorphosis, creating a very technical, demanding and spectacular art of costume.

The Performing Arts Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France
The mission of the Performing Arts Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France is to collect, preserve, catalogue and give access to the memory of all forms of the performing arts - manuscripts, models, costumes and objects, photographs, audiovisual documents, posters, drawings and prints, programs and press cuttings, as well as books and magazines. The Department preserves also a large number of playwrights, stage directors, actors, set and costume designers, performance places, festivals and companies. All the expressions of living performing art are represented: theater, circus, dance, marionettes, cabaret, street theater, cinema, television and radio.
For more information: http://www.bnf.fr/fr/acc/x.accueil.html