Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 34
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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George Segal’s Circus Acrobats Greet Visitors to PU Art Museum

Dilshanie Perera

Gracefully frozen in mid-swing, George Segal’s Circus Acrobats (1981) are now on display above the lobby of the Princeton University Art Museum.

Installed last week, the sculpture involves two life-sized trapeze artists readying themselves for a mid-air catch. One stretches his arms upward from the swing he is holding onto with bent knees, while the other reaches expectantly forward.

The sculpture is a gift to the Museum from the George and Helen Segal Foundation, which is located in New Brunswick.

“We’re delighted to be able to add this sculpture to our collection, and to install it in such a prominent location in McCormick Hall,” said Locks Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Art Kelly Baum. “The sculpture and lobby were perfectly suited to one another.”

“The sculpture needed the lobby’s tall ceilings to create the illusion of swooping acrobats, while the lobby needed the visual incident and excitement that the sculpture brings to an otherwise austere space,” she explained.

Standing at the entrance to the Art Museum, Big Figures, the group of 20 bronze sculptures by Magdalena Abakanowicz, that was on loan by an anonymous donor, was taken down on June 16.

Now, the acrobats greet patrons. “We definitely hope the sculpture will serve as an invitation to visitors, and as a signpost marking the entrance to the Museum,” Ms. Baum said.

Harry Gordon, who has installed Segal sculptures in the past, and crew members from the Harry H. Gordon Studio, worked with two members of the museum’s installation crew for over eight hours last Monday to lift and secure the sculpture to the ceiling with cables. Ms. Baum reported that a variety of tools and pieces of equipment were used, including two scissor lifts.

Another Segal piece, which is also a gift from the Foundation, Woman on White Wicker Rocker (1984-85), sits in the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery. While the seated lady is made of bronze and finished with a white patina, the circus acrobats are cast out of plaster.

Ms. Baum noted that Firestone Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections will receive another “important gift” from the Foundation, which will be announced in September.

While he began his artistic career in the 1950s as a painter, Segal is best known for his plaster and bronze sculptures related to social issues and the working class, or depicting scenes from domestic life. He is associated with the Pop Art movement.

As in Circus Acrobats, many of Segal’s works involve a tableau of people interacting with one another in various ways. The sculpture will be on view in the Museum’s lobby for 1 to 2 years, Ms. Baum reported.

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