“Swedish-born American sculptor Claes Oldenburg (1929-2022) died in his home city of New York, on Monday, aged 93. He was one of the leading figures of the US counter-culture in the 1960s and early 1970s. Ironically, some his most distinctive achievements became a template for corporate art of the 2000s.
“Oldenburg studied art in at the Art Institute, Chicago before relocating to New York. At a time, the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko dominated the galleries and art schools. Soon they would come to dominate the auction rooms. Once rebellious modernist abstraction would grace the walls of tycoons’ office walls of tycoons and socialites’ Long Island homes. Young artists in the late 1950s rebelled against what they saw as the commodification of art by staging free art performances (called “Happenings”). Oldenburg and his first wife participated in these.
“Oldenburg had been born in Stockholm and moved to the USA in the 1930s, where his father was a diplomat. He became an American citizen in the 1950s and is considered culturally American. Growing up in economic boom of World War II and the post-war period, the young artist was struck by the plethora of cheap food and consumer goods. He started to produce plaster sculptures of food, which he then painted. The results were like window-display samples. He sold these in an improvised gallery that he called The Shop.”
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