Elevating the everyday

Eminent Swiss sculptor Claes Oldenburg has sadly passed away
By Alex James Taylor | Art | 19 July 2022

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen in their studio with Standing Collar with Bow Tie (1992). Photo by Jesse Frohman, courtesy Trunk Archive and Pace Gallery

Renowned conceptual sculptor Claes Oldenburg has sadly died aged 93.

A radical and imaginative artist, Oldenburg is most known for his trademark oversized sculptures – often created in collaboration with his late wife Coosje van Bruggen – depicting mundane items such as clothes pegs, an ice cream cone, baseball bats, hamburgers and electric plugs as animated entities situated in public places. A blue planter at Rockefeller Centre in New York, a box of matches in Barcelona and a Binoculars building in Los Angeles, designed in collaboration with Frank Gehry.

“I was honoured to have this great friendship with one of the most radical artists of the 20th century,” said Pace Founder and Chairman Arne Glimcher, who worked closely with Oldenburg for over 60 years. “In addition to his inextricable role in the development of Pop Art, he changed the very nature of sculpture from hard to soft, and his influence can be seen to this day.”

“In public sites, our sculptures reflect both the surroundings and their context, but through our imagination and selective perception—which is what makes them also personal,” Oldenburg once said. “We feel free to use all the approaches that come naturally to our non-monumental works: variations in scale, similes, transformations, a wide range of materials, and, of course, our use of familiar objects.”

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Plantoir, 2001

Oldenburg/van Bruggen, ‘Tied Trumpet’, 2004 / copyright Oldenburg/van Bruggen, courtesy Pace Gallery

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