Born in Sweden, Claes Oldenburg (American, b.1929) is a well-known sculptor associated with the Pop Art movement. While he was a baby, Oldenburg’s family moved to the United States, first settling down in New York, and from 1936 in Chicago, where Oldenburg lived until he attended Yale University. Oldenburg moved to New York in 1956, where he met artists Jim Dine (American, b.1935) and Allan Kaprow (American, 1927–2006), who were working to break the mold of the prior generation of Abstract Expressionists. Oldenburg’s early exhibits in New York feature environments assembled from images, papier mâché, and plaster sculpture, such as his project The Street, which included debris, signs, silhouettes of figures, and other objects evoking an urban setting.

In 1961, Oldenburg staged his most famous happening, The Store, in which he rented space amidst actual shops on the East Side to sell traditional store goods recast as plaster sculptures, exposing the relationship between art and commodities. Naming his performances the product of the invented “Ray Gun Theater,” Oldenburg began to incorporate monumental soft sculptures, made from stuffed vinyl or inflatable materials. These works, sagging with gravity, humorously evoke the human body, forcing viewers to confront everyday objects in radically different circumstances. In 1965, Oldenburg began to design imaginary outdoor monuments, most of which were never realized, with his inflatable Lipstick Ascending, on Caterpillar Tracks being the most notable exception after its installation at Yale University.

From the 1970s onward, Oldenburg focused his attention on large outdoor public sculpture constructed with Cor-Ten steel, such as his Free Stamp, in Cleveland Ohio, Giant Trowel in Otterlo, the Netherlands, and Crusoe Umbrella in Des Moines, Iowa. Oldenburg often collaborated with his wife, artist Coosje van Bruggen (Dutch/American, 1942–2009), on these large-scale projects.

Timeline

1929
Born in Stockholm, Sweden
1946–1950
Attended Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
1953
Attended the Oxbow Summer School of Painting in Saugatuck, MI, USA
1950–1954
Attended the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
1956
Moved to New York City in 1956
1977
Married Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009)
Oldenburg currently lives and works in downtown Manhattan, in California, and on a centuries-old estate in the Loire Valley, France.

Exhibitions

2013
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2013:
Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Wood, Metal, Paint: Sculpture from the Fisher Collection, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
NeuenGalerie - neu gesehen: Sammlung + documenta-Erwerbungen - Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany
Pop Goes The Easel: Pop Art And Its Progeny, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, CT, USA
Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store, MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA
The Pop Object: The Still Life Tradition in Pop Art, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York City, NY, USA
2012
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2012:
Claes Oldenburg: Los Anos Sesenta, Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, Bilbao, Spain
Claes Oldenburg. Arbeiten auf Papier, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
Claes Oldenburg: Strange Eggs, The Menil Collection, Houston, TX, USA
Claes Oldenburg, The Sixties, Ludwig Museum im Deutschherrenhaus, Koblenz, Germany
Claes Oldenburg, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Claes Oldenburg - From Street to Mouse: 1959 - 1970, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig - MUMOK , Vienna, Austria
2011
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2011:
THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, Gagosian Gallery , New York City, NY, USA
Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light Bulb, The Pace Gallery - 545 West 22nd Street, New York City, NY, USA
Contemporary Drawings from the Irving Stenn Jr. Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA, USA
Pop Objects and Icons from the Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NY, USA
2010
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2010:
Painting and Sculpture, Lehmann Maupin, New York City, NY, USA
The Maginot Line, David Castillo Gallery, Miami, FL, USA
Popular, Galerie Thomas Modern, Munich, Germany
Cosa fa la mia anima mentre sto lavorando? Museo MAGA, Gallarte, Italy
Gran Reserva, Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile
Art and Appetite, Davison Art Center, Middletown, CT, USA
Modern and Contemporary Sculpture, Richard Gray Gallery, New York City, NY, YSA
2009
1968. Die große Unschuld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany (group)
2008
The Hands of Art, SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium
2007
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2007:
Sculpture By the Way, Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain
Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen: Double Vision, Waddington Galleries, London, England
2006
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2006:
Group Show, The Armory Show at Piers 90 and 92, New York, NY, USA
Sculpture By the Way, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Castello di Rivolli, Turin, Italy
2005
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 2005:
Corridor Pin, De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, USA
Balzac, Petanque, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA
2004
Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen on the Roof
1996
Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
1989
IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, Spain, Sept. 15 - Nov. 15.
1988
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 1988:
Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes, France, Feb. 15 - Apr. 9.
Claes Oldenburg: Tekeningen / Dessins, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 27 - Dec. 30.
1977
Claes Oldenburg: Tegninger fra 1954 til 1974, Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Danmark, January 15 - February 13.
1976
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 1976:
Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, Germany, August 27 - September 26.
Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, Austria, January 14 - February 29.
Kunstverein im Hamburg, Germany, April 3 - May 16
Claes Oldenburg: Zeichnungen, Objekte, Filme, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt, Germany, May 27 - August 22.
Claes Oldenburg: Unbekannte Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Gouachen 1954-1974, Museum Haus Lange Krefeld, Germany, November 16 - January 4.
1975
Claes Oldenburg Exhibitions in 1975:
Nationalgalerie Berlin, Germany, September 17 - October 26.
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany, July 17 - August 31.
Claes Oldenburg, Zeichnungen, Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland, May 10 - July 6.
Claes Oldenburg: Zeichnungen-Aquarellen-Collagen, 1954-1974, Kunsthalle, Tübingen, Germany. March 1 - April 20.
1969
Claes Oldenburg, retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
1962
"New Realists" Exhibition, which defined the Pop Art Movement, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY, USA
1959
Claes Oldenburg, exhibit of drawings and sculpture, Judson Gallery, New York, NY, USA
1958
Claes Oldenburg, Red Grooms' City Gallery, New York, NY, USA