Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1929, but spent most of his childhood in the United States. After studies at Yale University and the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved in 1956 to New York City, where he established himself in the early 1960s with a series of installations and performances influenced by his surroundings on the Lower East Side.
Moving from early environments such as The Street (1960), The Store (1961), and Bedroom Ensemble (1963), Oldenburg then developed a series of soft sculptures, created with the participation with his first wife Patty Mucha. These took as subjects ordinary, everyday objects, often enlarged, as did a series of fantastic proposals for civic monuments. His accumulation of studio miscellany eventually took form as the Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing (1965–77), which pioneered collection and display as forms of art.
In 1977, Oldenburg married curator and art historian Coosje van Bruggen, with whom he created over forty large-scale public projects as well as smaller-scale outdoor sculptures and indoor installations. Van Bruggen was born in Groningen, Netherlands, in 1942. She received a Doctorandus degree in Art History from the Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen and was curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam from 1967 to 1971. In addition to other curatorial and lecturing positions, van Bruggen is the author of many articles and books including monographs on Bruce Nauman, Hanne Darboven, John Baldessari, and Claes Oldenburg.
New York—Pace Gallery is pleased to announce Claes Oldenburg: Shelf Life, an exhibition of new work by the artist including 15 mixed-media sculptures and a series of rotating Geometric Mouse shopping bags. The first exhibition of new work by Oldenburg at Pace Gallery in twelve years, Shelf Life will be on view from October 13 to November 11, 2017, at 537 West 24th Street. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, October 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
In its accumulative nature and its presentation of seemingly random objects, Shelf Life draws significant inspiration from a number of Oldenburg’s most iconic exhibitions, particularly The Mouse Museum originally created for documenta 5 (1972) and the pioneering Pop art exhibition The Store (1961). The new works re-contextualize small-scale sculptures ranging in subject from bowling pins to a paintbrush and a slice of pizza—created by the artist and Coosje van Bruggen in diverse materials, some as durable as iron and others as fragile as paper plates, as well as found objects from the artist’s shelves. Oldenburg organized the objects on a set of custom-made shelves (each measuring 19 15/16" x 28 3/4" x 12 3/16") inspired by a particular standard office shelf unit in his studio, arranging, rearranging, and recreating them until the pieces found their proper place with one another.
Taken together, the sculptures in Shelf Life represent a compendium of the ideas and objects that have resonated throughout Oldenburg’s life and practice, now revealed in completely new relationships. As an artist pivotal to the evolution of contemporary art throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Oldenburg has approached this latest period of his career as, he said, “a time to decide what one keeps.” These are the images he has chosen to keep.
“It has been my privilege to have worked with Claes Oldenburg since the early 1960s when the Pace Gallery, still in Boston, presented elements from The Store in 1964,” says Arne Glimcher, Pace Gallery Founder. “This new body of work, with its nostalgia for the past and its optimism for the future, marks the beginning of a new period in his work. His radical combination of ideas continues his obsession with the elasticity of imagery."
Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929, Stockholm, Sweden) came to prominence in the New York art scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Exploring the relationships between objects, the body, and landscape through such seminal installations as The Street (1960) and The Store (1961), his later production of large-scale sculpture led to a decades-long collaboration with art historian and curator Coosje van Bruggen (b. 1942, Groningen, Netherlands; d. 2009, Los Angeles). Together, Oldenburg and van Bruggen produced sculpture, drawings, performances, and colossal monuments that transform the familiar into the unexpected.
Pace is a leading contemporary art gallery representing many of the most significant international artists and estates of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Founded by Arne Glimcher in Boston in 1960 and currently led by Marc Glimcher, Pace has been a constant, vital force in the art world and has introduced many renowned artists’ work to the public for the first time. Pace has mounted more than 900 exhibitions, including scholarly shows that have subsequently traveled to museums, and published over 450 exhibition catalogues. Today, Pace has nine locations worldwide: three galleries in New York; one in London; one in Palo Alto, California; one in Beijing; and spaces in Hong Kong, Paris, and Seoul. In 2016, the gallery launched Pace Art + Technology, a new program dedicated to showcasing interdisciplinary art groups, collectives and studios whose works explore the confluence of art and technology.
A new exhibition at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will show Claes Oldenburg's Shelf Life (2017), recently debuted at Pace Gallery's exhibition in the fall of 2017, alongside a selection of 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings from their collection. The exhibition will open on August 11, 2018 and remain on view through December 2, 2018. Read more about the exhibition on the museum's website.
text by the artist
2017. Pace Gallery. Hardcover
36 pages: 16 color illustrations; 8 ¾ x 11 ½ inches