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  • Writer's pictureNicole Ruskell

Exhibition: "The Prince at the heart of the Circus" celebrating Monaco's Circus Festival

As part of the ongoing celebrations of the Centenary of Prince Rainier III and the 50th anniversary of the circus festival, a look back.

The Princely family at the inauguration of the exhibition 'Le Prince au Cœur du Cirque' ©Direction de la Communication-Frédéric Nebinger

An event that holds a special special place in every Monegasque's heart is the circus festival, as many grew up along with the princely family in awe of the annual spectacle. On Tuesday 21 November 2023, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco inaugurated the exhibition "The Prince at the heart of the Circus", in the company of His sister, H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie and her children, Louis Ducruet and Camille Gottlieb, as well as H.E. Mr Pierre Dartout and numerous officials from the Principality.

President of the Comité de Commémoration du Prince Rainier III, H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie is behind this exhibition, which is part of the Centenary of her father's birth and the 50th anniversary of the Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo. This captivating retrospective is being coordinated by the Direction des Affaires Culturelles and the Comité de Commémoration du Prince Rainier III, in collaboration with Monte-Carlo Festivals, and will be open to the public from 22 November 2023 to 28 January 2024, in the former Musée de l'Automobile, located on the Terrasses de Fontvieille.

Creating a tradition

The International Circus Festival in Monaco stands as a testament to the allure and legacy of the principality. Established in 1974 by the visionary Prince Rainier III, the festival emerged as a celebration of the timeless artistry and skill of circus performers worldwide. Nestled within the opulent confines of the Chapiteau de Fontvieille, this annual extravaganza unites the elite of the circus world, drawing aficionados and enthusiasts alike to the glamorous shores of the French Riviera.

With its origins deeply rooted in Monaco's rich cultural tapestry, the festival echoes the principality's longstanding tradition of elegance and entertainment. From its humble beginnings to its current status as the premier circus event globally, the festival has evolved into a showcase of unparalleled talent, dazzling audiences with breathtaking acrobatics, spellbinding aerial feats, and the charismatic flair of clowns and performers. Over the years, it has not only provided a platform for established circus dynasties but also fostered a space for emerging talents, perpetuating the art form's enduring allure and securing its place in Monaco's illustrious history of cultural excellence.

The Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo stands resolute in its unwavering commitment to animal welfare and safety, embodying a progressive ethos that champions the humane treatment of all performing creatures. Under the discerning guidance of H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie, the festival has implemented stringent regulations and protocols, ensuring the well-being and dignity of animals featured in circus performances. Embracing a conscientious approach, the festival mandates rigorous vetting processes, stringent living conditions, and meticulous care for every participating animal. Collaborating closely with animal welfare organizations, the festival endeavors to set new industry benchmarks, fostering a culture of respect and compassion towards the animal performers. This steadfast dedication not only reflects the principality's progressive stance but also sets a compelling example for the global circus community, heralding an era where entertainment harmonizes seamlessly with ethical considerations and the welfare of all involved.


A retrospective

Prince Rainier III led a number of initiatives in support of the circus world. His visionary spirit and benevolence towards artists and animals gave new life to the circus arts. At the heart of the exhibition is the heartfelt story of Prince Rainier III and the Circus, between tradition and modernity, which has made this Festival an unmissable meeting place for the world's greatest circus families and schools, where virtuosity, feats, laughter and magic come together to delight spectators.

Charlène Dray, scientific curator and set designer, and Lucas Lemme, set designer, were guided by the words of this Prince, who reminded us that "the circus is experienced with the senses and that it is above all a living art". His writings and personal accounts accompany visitors on a journey that combines video extracts of emblematic acts, previously unpublished documents from the Archives of the Prince's Palace of Monaco, numerous costumes from the collection of Dr Alain Frère and works of art brought together for the very first time, enabling visitors to experience and discover the history of the most prestigious Circus Festival in the world.

Don't miss the actual Circus Festival, running from 19 to 28 January at the Chapiteau de l'Espace Fontvieille. Visit the website here for tickets.

Exhibition: "Le Prince au Cœur du Cirque"

UNTIL 28 January

Terrasses de Fontvieille, ancien Musée de l’Automobile

25-29 Avenue Albert II – Monaco

Free entry

Open 7 days a week, 11 am - 7 pm

Closed 25 December and 1 January 2024





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