Asia Under the Big Top
The Ringling presents the exhibit, "Asia Under the Big Top", exploring how stereotypes and fantasies of Asia played to American audiences under the big top through lithographs printed to advertise American circuses from the last quarter of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century. (October 14, 2016 - February 13, 2017)
Fantasies of the exotic Far East have shaped the performing and visual arts of America from the beginning of the country. Traveling circuses, exotic travelers in their own right, embraced the undeniable draw of the people and cultures of Asia, including exotic “Oriental” attractions and spectacles by the mid-nineteenth century.
Hindu snake charmers, Japanese strongmen, and Chinese strongmen were among the types of performers imported to entertain American audiences with both their skill and their foreignness. In addition to the performers, many circuses created productions around tales of the “Far East” like 101 Arabian Nights and Aladdin. The shows capitalized on every opportunity to promote the exotic quality of Asia. Explore how stereotypes and fantasies of Asia played to American audiences under the big top through lithographs printed to advertise American circuses from the last quarter of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Howard and Janice Tibbals, the Howard Tibbals Collection, and the Howard Tibbals Endowment.
Please join the U.S.-China Institute and PEN America for the West Coast launch of the PEN America report on social media in China, Forbidden Feeds. We will discuss the report and Chinese social media more generally.