Pop artist Claes Oldenburg is dead


In Minneapolis is the spoon with the cherry. (Source: imago images / Glen Stube)

Oldenburg was born in Stockholm in 1929. When he was seven years old, his father was posted to Chicago as Consul General of Sweden. Oldenburg fell in love with the country, its people and their way of life. Educated at the elite Yale University, he wandered the continent for a bit before finally settling in New York in the 1950s.

“It was my first American statement”

Exactly at the right time: in the late 1950s, new ideas, new artists and new art were in demand. The main thing is different and as funny as possible. Creatives like Jackson Pollock had blazed the trail, and others like Warhol, Lichtenstein and Johns followed suit. Oldenburg also started. “I didn’t have a lot of money. I bought magazines, cut things out, and that was my first American statement, these collages.”

But Oldenburg did not stay small for long – and he became much more political: with a seven-meter-high lipstick on a chariot chain, he campaigned against war. A huge shredded pencil for the University of El Salvador in 1977 would symbolize the survival of the spirit despite brutal political repression. And in San Francisco, he drove a Cupid’s arrow almost 20 meters high, with a bow, into the ground.

A Cupid’s arrow shoots out of the ground in San Francisco. (Source: imago images)

The art world welcomed him enthusiastically – also in Germany. In Kassel, the multiple artist from Documenta carved a 12-metre-high pickaxe from the bank of the Fulda. In Frankfurt, the tie was almost as high. In Münster, billiard balls, in Cologne an ice cream cone and in Freiburg a water tap with a hose.

The Oldenburg ice cream cone is located in Cologne. (Source: imago images)

Oldenburg designed more than 40 monumental sculptures in garishly painted plaster or soft vinyl. Many of them with his second wife, Coosje van Bruggen, who was always more than just a muse. Two weeks before Oldenburg’s 80th birthday, the Dutchwoman died of cancer in 2009 aged just 66.

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