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Claes Oldenburg

(b. 1929)

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(b Stockholm, 28 Jan. 1929).

Swedish-born sculptor and graphic artist who became an American citizen in 1953. He was educated at Yale University and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (earning his living with part-time jobs as a reporter and illustrator), then in 1956 settled in New York. There he came into contact with a group of young artists, including Dine, Kaprow, and Segal, who were in revolt against Abstract Expressionism and from c.1958 he became interested in arranging happenings, environments, ‘situations’, etc. His inspiration was drawn largely from New York's street life—shop windows, graffiti, advertisements, and so on—and in 1961 he opened ‘The Store’, at which he sold painted plaster replicas of foods and other domestic objects. This led to the work with which his name is most closely associated—giant-size sculptures of foodstuffs and ‘soft sculptures’ of normally hard objects (Dual Hamburger, 1962, MoMA, New York). With these he was hailed as one of the leaders of American Pop art. Oldenburg is also well known for his projects for colossal monuments—for example, Lipsticks in Piccadilly Circus, London (1966, Tate, London), consisting of a magazine cutting of an array of lipsticks pasted on to a picture postcard. The first of these projects to be realized was a giant lipstick erected at Yale University in 1969. From 1976 he concentrated on such large-scale projects, in collaboration with his second wife, the Dutch-born writer Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009).

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