Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) is an American sculptor, draftsman, print maker, performance artist and writer at the forefront of Pop Art. He is best known for his public, outdoor sculpture— clever depictions of everyday objects— as well as his drawings and prints.
Born in Sweden, he immigrated to Chicago in 1936 with his family. He moved to New York in 1956 and quickly became part of a group of artists who challenged Abstract Expressionism by modifying its thickly impastoed bravura paint with figurative images and found objects.
Oldenburg’s first solo show in 1959, at the Judson Gallery in New York, included figurative drawings and papier mâché sculptures. A year later, he was staging happenings within urban-based assemblage. In 1965, Oldenburg turned his attention to drawings and projects for imaginary outdoor monuments and by the early 1970s focused almost exclusively on public art commissions and began collaborating with Cossje van Bruggen in 1976. His work has been the subject of exhibitions at major museums, among them Moderna Museet, Sweden and the Museum of Modern Art, NY. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY, organized a retrospective of Oldenburg’s work, which traveled to the National Gallery of Art, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn; and Hayward Gallery, London. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of Oldenburg and van Bruggen drawings and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, exhibited a selection of Oldenburg and van Bruggen sculptures on the roof in 2002.