Claes Oldenburg Sweden / U.S.A., b. 1929


Claes Oldenburg is a Swedish-born American sculptor known for his innovative and humorous reconstructions of everyday objects in both large-scale public installations and soft materials. Along with Tom Wesselmann, Jasper Johns and Allan Kaprow, Oldenburg is associated with the Pop Art movement.


Born on January 28, 1929 in Stockholm, Sweden, his family moved to America in 1936. Oldenburg went on to study at Yale University before working at the City News Bureau in Chicago and attending the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York in 1953. His early shows featured objects assembled with images, papier mâché, and plaster. In 1957, Oldenburg created his first "soft sculpture," Sausage, a free-hanging woman's stocking stuffed with newspaper. Thereafter, his work began to increase in scale, beginning with The Store (1961), an immersive installation created within a rented storefront in the Lower East Side where the artist sold food and store goods recast as plaster sculptures.


By the 1970s, Oldenburg focused his attention on monumental outdoor public sculpture of everyday objects, going to create Free Stamp in Cleveland and Clothespin in Philadelphia. Oldenburg often collaborated with his wife, the artist Coosje van Bruggen, until her death in 2009. The artist continues to live and work in New York, NY. Today, Oldenburg's works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, and the Kunstmuseum Basel, among others.


In 1989, Oldenburg won the Wolf Prize in Arts. In 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Oldenburg has also received honorary degrees from Oberling College, Ohio, in 1970; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, in 1979; Bard College, New York, in 1995; and Royal College of Art, London, in 1996, as well as the following awards: Brandeis University Sculpture Award, 1971; Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, 1972; Art Institute of Chicago, First Prize Sculpture Award, 72nd American Exhibition, 1976; Medal, American Institute of Architects, 1977; Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Prize for Sculpture, Duisburg, Germany, 1981; Brandeis University Creative Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, The Jack I. and Lillian Poses Medal for Sculpture, 1993; Rolf Schock Foundation Prize, Stockholm, Sweden, 1995. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters since 1975 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1978.