The world has lost a pop-culture icon. Claes Oldenburg passed away in July at the age of 93. You might not be familiar with his name, but you probably have seen his whimsical pieces. Oldenburg’s sculptures are scattered across America and the globe. He was born in Sweden but brought his craft to the United States.
In Minneapolis, fans can catch a giant spoon holding a bright red cherry at the Walker Art Center. The scoop reaches across a meandering creek. It is actually a cleverly disguised fountain too. Water can pour from the cherry’s stem into the spoon’s head and down into the water. The sculpture weighs almost 8,000 pounds. Oldenburg completed this work in the late 80s.
Outside of City Hall in Philadelphia, you will see a towering clothespin. On this project, Oldenburg worked with the city’s redevelopment team. It is an example of how modernists can turn everyday objects into art. The locals have embraced the shape and refer to the model with love and humor. The artist fabricated the pin from steel, and Mother Nature has turned it a soft shade of red.
Chicago is known for its raving baseball fans, and Oldenburg honored the game by constructing a skyscraper-tall baseball bat. He punctured the steel frame with artful holes so that it could withstand the wind. You can find the bat standing outside the Social Security Office.
While in Vegas, visit the Artemus Ham Hall at the University of Las Vegas if you want to see a nearly 40-foot tall flashlight. The original design had the lens pointing into the sky, but concerns from the local airport caused Oldenburg to reconfigure this piece. The flashlight now shines on the ground. At night, you will see a soft glow coming from the base. Truckers brought the light in from the sculptor’s Connecticut workshop.
A coral lipstick sits on a tank-like base at Yale. Oldenburg finished this abstract design in 1969, but administrators had it removed when it started to break down. The piece was remade with steel and moved to another location. In 2019, fans had it placed back in its original Yale space.
Followers can find more of Claes Oldenburg’s work in Washington, New York, and England.