Artist Biography

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen are artists/collaborators and husband and wife. In the 1960s, Oldenburg became one of America’s famous Pop artists. He is also known for creating the first soft sculptures made of fabric, many of which were foodstuffs—slices of cake, ice cream cones and hamburgers that are staples of daily life in America. As his repertoire grew, Oldenburg created typewriters, electric fans and toilets. The Museum’s Switches Sketch (1964) and Soft Saxophone, Scale B (1992) are classic examples of Oldenburg’s soft sculptures of familiar objects.

Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s first collaboration was in 1976, when the sculptures Trowel I (1971–1976) in Otterlo, The Netherlands, and Trowel II (1976) in Purchase, New York, were commissioned. The artists married in 1977 and have since executed more than 40 large-scale sculptures worldwide. Whimsical works like the soft sculptures are based on everyday objects from popular culture. By making ordinary objects the focus of their art rather than depicting more traditional, heroic and commemorative subjects, they challenged conventions and reinvigorated the history of sculpture.

Created on a monumental scale, works such as Clothespin (1976) in Philadelphia; Spoonbridge and Cherry (1988) at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Typewriter Eraser, Scale X (1999) at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. and Shuttlecocks (1994) at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art continue to delight and surprise visitors.

Oldenburg was born in 1929 in Stockholm, Sweden. Van Bruggen was born in 1942 in Groningen, The Netherlands. She died in 2009.

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