How the Cyrk got its name

When I was a kid, my father, Leon Serkin, was sometimes called “Serk” by his friends. In the late ’60’s I was shopping in Harvard Square for wall hangings for my college room and came across some, then contemporaneously produced, censored Polish art posters. I was elated to find the lion and tiger “Cyrk” posters, that reminded me of my father’s nickname, with stunning graphic and political appeal. I blew my whole meager furnishing budget on them.

After their time in my dorm room, they got handed down to my sister. When she graduated the posters went the way of all battered college furnishings. Decades later, when our new live-work building in Portland was still just a conceptual drawing, I seized on the idea of somehow incorporating my name into the name of the building without it being completely eponymous.

My husband, Will Emery, kindly humored me in my egotistical whim. “Cyrk” had familial significance, along with the allure of the subversive poster art form, punctuated by a suggestion of the three-ring circus aspect of our lives.

 

At that point I went on a quest for the posters themselves. The Contemporary Posters staff had just been on a scouting trip to Europe and had found not only the lion and tiger from my college days but the third poster in the series as well – a clown with the letter “Y” in his pocket. They even had a couple prints that had the censor’s approval noted on the front, but I opted for the pristine versions that are now hanging in the hall at the Cyrk Building.

I did not know about MoMA’s Polish poster collection until I undertook my 2010 quest, and that added a satisfying extra dimension for me as an art collector.

The people at contemporaryposters.com were wonderfully helpful when I spoke with them on the phone three years ago. As I recall it took a while for them to respond to my phone and email inquiries because they were traveling on buying missions, but having their expertise was well worth the wait.

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