Claes Oldenburg, eccentric father of pop art, dies at 93

Claes Oldenburg, a Swedish artist whose light-hearted caricatures of everyday objects — like relics of lipstick and binoculars and “soft sculptures” of hamburgers and ice cream cones — made him a leading force in pop art on July 18. His home in Manhattan. He is 93 years old.

Her death was confirmed by Pace Gallery and Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. Adriana Elgaresta, director of public relations at Pace, said the cause was complications from the fall.

No pop artist — not even his contemporaries Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein — produced a public body of work to rival his. “Art should be more than making things for galleries and museums,” he said Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I wanted to find art in the experience of life.”

In 2017, Mr. About Oldenburg’s life, New York Times art writer Randy Kennedy observed that “It’s easy to forget how radical his work was when it first appeared, expanding the definition of sculpture to make it somehow accessible and brain-friendly at the same time.”

Mr. Oldenburg’s outdoor installations include A A giant cherry balanced on a spoon in the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; A Monumental steel clothespin In Philadelphia’s Central Square; A 20-ton Baseball bat in front of Chicago’s Social Security Administration Building; and A 38 feet tall lamp at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

In Washington, his work is represented by a colossal steel and fiberglass sculpture Typewriter Eraser In the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery. Although the sculpture’s meaning is a mystery to many younger viewers, its giant pink wheel and wavy bristles give it a compelling shape.

At least one quirky Oldenburg proposal for the capital was never realized: a plan to replace the Washington Monument with a giant pair of scissors.

In “Claes Oldenburg: Object into Monument,” the catalog for a 1973 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. Oldenburg described the concepts behind scissors. As he envisioned the piece, red handles would be buried in deep tanks, their exposed blades opening and closing within a day.

“Like a pair of scissors, America is joined together,” he wrote, “two violent regions destined to meet together in their arc.”

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Mr. Oldenburg never expected Scissors to be built. David Bagel, a professor of art theory and history, wrote in the Los Angeles Times In 2004 Mr. “Not infrequently,” says Oldenburg, “bad propositions were in the first place excellent excuses for making great paintings.” (In the case of Scissors, one of those drawings is in the collection of the National Gallery.)

Mr. Oldenburg’s second wife, the Dutch sculptor Goosje van Bruggen, was his collaborator from 1976 until Death in 2009. Although critics sometimes questioned the extent of Van Brucken’s role, the pair found theirs to be a true artistic partnership. The ideas for the sculptures were developed collaboratively, they said. Then Mr. Oldenburg wrote fiction and he made drawings while sitting.

Mr. Oldenburg’s work delighted collectors and critics alike. His 1974 “Clothespin Ten Foot” sold at auction in 2015 for more than $3.6 million. In 2019, he sold 450 of his notebooks (along with thousands of drawings, photographs and other documents) to the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Mr. When Oldenburg arrived in New York in 1956, the era of Abstract Expressionist painting was coming to an end. Young artists pioneered conceptual, performance and installation art. After a couple of years of painting, Mr. Oldenburg threw himself into new movements. “I wanted work that said something, was messy, a little mysterious,” he told the New York Times.

His first solo exhibition at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village in 1959 consisted of abstract sculptures made mostly of paper, wood and string—he found them on the street, he said. “His early works—based on the castoff and crudeness of the flotsam and jetsam of modern life—were a hit with his contemporaries from the start,” Kennedy reported in the Times.

In 1960, while working as a dishwasher in Provincetown, Mass., Mr. Oldenburg was inspired by the shapes of food and tableware. In early 1961, he unveiled an installation called “The Store,” which consisted of plaster models of actual grocery-store items.

At the time, his colors were “very, very strong,” Mr. Oldenburg said Recorded speech in 2012. And his pieces bent. “My mood is really touchy,” he said. “I see things around and I like to do them around. I like to hit them and touch them.

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For the second edition of “The Store” at the end of 1961, Mr. Oldenburg rented an actual storefront on East Second Street in Manhattan. There he displayed a 10-foot long ice cream cone, a 5-by-7-foot hamburger and a nine-foot piece of cake. The pieces were made of fabric, and their chief seamstress was Patricia Muchinski, known as Patty Mucha, who worked for Mr. Married to Oldenburg. It was the first of hundreds of delicate sculptures he created over the years.

According to New York Museum of Modern ArtA poster for “The Store” is “a landmark of Pop Art” that “revealed Oldenburg’s interest in the slippery line between art and commodity and the artist’s role in self-promotion.”

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Oldenburg was an art world star. In 1969, he was the subject of the first major pop art show at the Museum of Modern Art. The show included more than 100 of his sculptures (including a re-creation of “The Store”) and dozens of drawings.

But already he was thinking beyond the confines of museums and galleries.

In 1969, he created “Lipstick on Caterpillar Tracks (climbing)” A large lipstick, with an inflated tip, mounted on a plywood base, resembled military tank treads. Commissioned by a group of Yale architecture students, it was prominently displayed on the university campus.

The sculpture is a physical manifestation of the anti-war slogan “Make Love, Not War” and a platform from which speeches can be made. But in 1974 (after Mr. Oldenburg rebuilt the metal piece), the university moved it to a less prominent location.

After “Lipstick”, Mr. Oldenburg created one “grand monument” after another. They included a giant Robinson Crusoe umbrella in Des Moines; A Probdingnagian Electric plug in Oberlin, Ohio; And a colossal Rubber stamp in Cleveland. How the piece was attached to the site sometimes Mr. Only Oldenburg and Van Brucken knew clearly.

Oldenburg and van Bruggen occasionally collaborated with architect Frank Gehry, who joined them. Giant telescopes He designed the West Coast headquarters for advertising agency Ciad/Day in Los Angeles, which opened in 1991. (Standing, the telescopes form a sort of arch through which cars enter the building’s garage.)

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Claes Ture Oldenburg was born on January 28, 1929 in Stockholm. His mother was a concert singer and his father was a Swedish diplomat whose work required the family to move frequently.

The Oldenburgs moved to Chicago in 1936. Glaze’s strongest memories of that period are her mother’s filling of notebooks with photographs from American magazines, she said.

Mr. Oldenburg studied literature and art at Yale. After graduating in 1950, he took art classes at night as a reporter in Chicago. He spent time in San Francisco, where he made a living drawing boll weevils for pesticide advertisements before moving to New York. For decades, he split his time between Lower Manhattan and Beaumont-sur-Dem, France.

President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 2000.

Survivors include two stepsons, Martje Oldenburg and Paulus Kaptein; and four grandchildren. His younger brother Richard, who died in 2018, spent 22 years as director of the Museum of Modern Art and later chaired Sotheby’s America.

All Mr. For Oldenburg’s victory, only a small fraction of the monuments he proposed were built.

These included planting a giant rearview mirror – a symbol of backward-looking culture – in London’s Trafalgar Square (1976) and installing a giant electric fan in place of the Statue of Liberty to throw immigrants into the sea (1977).

He proposed a drainpipe for Toronto, a windshield wiper for Chicago’s Grand Park, an ironing board for Manhattan’s Lower East Side and a banana for Times Square, as well as scissors for Washington.

Sometimes, he doesn’t expect to be taken seriously. A Recorded interview With the 2012 exhibition in Vienna, Mr. Oldenburg said, “The only thing that really saves the human experience is humor. I don’t think it’s very funny without humor.

Correction: An earlier version of this article, based on incorrect information from the Paula Cooper Gallery, incorrectly stated that Claes Oldenburg’s three grandchildren were among her survivors. He has four grandchildren. The article has been corrected.

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