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Jean Dubuffet: Le Cirque

During the 1960s and early 1970 — the most prolific years of his career, coinciding with his involvement in the Hourloupe cycle — French artist Jean Dubuffet prepared models and precise specifications for architectural completion. Le cirque, a black and white environmental sculpture, is one of the most major works of that cycle.

Le cirque is a habitable environment that suggests an urban plaza, which Dubuffet first conceived and sculpted in 1970 as a model for future enlargement at architectural scale. Measuring 30 square feet and 13 feet in height, Le cirque is one of the last remaining works from the late 1960s and early 1970s to be realized at heroic size. Marking a crucial moment in Dubuffet’s deeply influential oeuvre, it stands as a major achievement in the artist’s sculptural practice and heralds the final chapter in his celebrated Hourloupe cycle, which lasted from 1962 to 1974. This cycle, the longest and most prolific of Dubuffet’s career, began with drawings and paintings, to which Dubuffet added reliefs to expand their presence spatially and “give them life,” as the artist stated. This evolved further into painted and sculpted panels, which came together in ambitious sculptural and architectural installations.