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New York

Claes & Coosje

Il Corso del Coltello

Past
Mar 26–Jul 20, 2021

This exhibition, part of Claes & Coosje: A Duet, features Il Corso del Coltello (The Course of the Knife), Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s canonical site-specific performance project, which was commissioned, conceived, and realized together with the writer Germano Celant and the architect Frank Gehry.

Exhibition Details

Claes & Coosje
Il Corso del Coltello
Mar 26 – Jul 20, 2021

Gallery

540 West 25th Street
New York

Above: Installation view, Claes & Coosje: A Duet, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, March 26 – Jul 20, 2021, Pace Gallery, New York © 2021 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

Pace Gallery is honored to present an exhibition celebrating the collaborative spirit that animated Claes Oldenburg and the late Coosje van Bruggen’s artistic achievements and romantic partnership. Over the course of three decades, Oldenburg and van Bruggen created some of the most famous landmarks in urban and civic spaces around the world. Bringing together a selection of seminal works in sculpture spanning the full arc of their shared history—from early collaborations in the 1980s to their final works of the late 2000s—the exhibition pays homage to one of the 20th century’s most influential artistic duos, highlighting in particular van Bruggen’s vital yet underrecognized role in their collective oeuvre. Claes & Coosje: A Duet sheds new light on the philosophical, aesthetic, and artistic dialogue between these two artists and the indispensable role it played on their collective creative output.

Among the best-known artist-couples of the post-1960s era, Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s partnership was, from the beginning, a conspiracy between artist and art historian. They met in 1971, when van Bruggen was a young curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and they married six years later. During the 1980s, van Bruggen soon transformed from interlocutor into full-fledged artistic collaborator and artist in her own right. From the 1970s onward, Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s ongoing debates and conversations—first around major sculptural commissions and later in their collaborative studio practice—reflected a profound intellectual exchange shaped by the sensibility of a sculptor, on the one hand, and that of a writer, on the other. The result was one of the most fruitful, impactful, and sometimes controversial collaborations in 20th century art. Today, Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s large-scale projects remain some of the most recognizable and beloved public artworks in the world.

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Installation view, Claes & Coosje: A Duet, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, March 26 – Jul 20, 2021, Pace Gallery, New York © 2021 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

The exhibition features a selection of sculptural works from some of the artists’ best-known collaborations, including original artifacts, drawings, and soft sculptures from Il Corso del Coltello (The Course of the Knife), Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s canonical site-specific performance project for Venice, Italy, which was commissioned, conceived, and realized together with the writer Germano Celant and the architect Frank Gehry.

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Installation view, Claes & Coosje: A Duet, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, March 26 – Jul 20, 2021, Pace Gallery, New York © 2021 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

This ambitious event involved the creation and embarkation of a sea-worthy sculpture in the shape of a giant Swiss army knife. With oars protruding from its red-enameled hull as if from a Viking longship, the image of Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s Knife Ship sailing the Grand Canal has become iconic, while the massive kinetic sculpture was later shown in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and finally at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen

Internationally renowned for their collaborative artistic practice, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen have produced sculpture, drawings, and colossal monuments that transform familiar objects into states that imply animation and sometimes revolt. A leading voice of the Pop art movement, Oldenburg came to prominence in the New York art scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s, where he established himself with a series of installations and performances influenced by his surroundings on the Lower East Side. In 1977, Oldenburg married curator and art historian Coosje van Bruggen, with whom he would collaborate for over thirty years. Together, Oldenburg and van Bruggen produced sculpture, drawings, performances, and colossal monuments that transform the familiar into the unexpected.

Learn More

New York — Claes & Coosje, Il Corso del Coltello, Mar 26–Jul 20, 2021