When circus maestro John Ringling decided to settle in Sarasota with his wife, Mable, they decided they needed an art museum on their property to house their considerable collection. It took two years to build the Ringling Museum, which opened in 1927. Today, the museum’s holdings represent works both Western and non-Western, spanning ancient times to the 21st century. The museum has become a cultural touchstone for the Sarasota area and the Gulf Coast, including within its purview everything from a Circus Museum to a high-concept playspace, a historic theater and acre upon acre of waterfront gardens.
Synonymous with the must-be-seen-to-be-believed type of entertainment, the name Ringling conjures up images of exotic animals and unique performances. Creating this special allure was John and Mable Ringling, who had a passion for art. This museum is now one of the top attraction here in Sarasota. Visitors will find a fine art museum with 21 galleries of American, Asian, European, and Contemporary art, all maintained by Florida State University. In addition to a world-renowned collection of artwork, visitors will also be enthralled with the Circus Museum where visitors can walk the wire, squeeze into a clown car, and explore memorabilia dedicated to the “Greatest Show on Earth.
The Ringling Museum is divided into two areas; the Circus Museum and the Ringling Museum of Art. but both located on the same estate, with their own selection of buildings and displays.
The Ringling Museum of Art is a diverse and eclectic collection. Some people think that it celebrates the very famous Ringling Circus, but that is a separate museum entirely (also on the grounds and within walking distance). This museum includes exhibitions from around the world, has multiple levels, and has continued to expand in the preceding years.
In the Ringling Circus Museum, clown cars, photos, memorabilia, prints, wardrobes, props, art, the railroad car on which the Ringling family used to travel the country, and other fascinating Ringling circus memorabilia can be seen.
The two combined museums contain a remarkable art collection that celebrates a history of family, art, and creativity in Sarasota. The Circus Museum largely showcases Ringling circus memorabilia while the Ringling Museum of Art is a mix of many genres of art across the world and through many eras.
Both are worthy of at least one or more trips. So, don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to get a firsthand glimpse of fascinating American circus history!
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