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Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg was born in 1929, in Stockholm. His father was a diplomat, and the family lived in the United States and Norway before settling in Chicago in 1936. Oldenburg studied literature and art history at Yale before studying art under Paul Wieghardt at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1950 to 1954.

In 1956 he moved to New York and met several artists making early Performance work, including George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, George Segal, and Robert Whitman. Oldenburg soon became a prominent figure in Happenings and Performance art during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1961, he opened The Store in his studio, where he recreated the environment of neighborhood shops. He displayed familiar objects made out of plaster, reflecting American society's celebration of consumption, and was soon heralded as a Pop artist with the emergence of the movement in 1962.

Oldenburg's first outdoor public monument (1967), Placid Civic Monument, took the form of a Conceptual performance/action behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. By 1969, his first such iconic work, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, was installed at Yale University. Most of his large-scale projects were made with the collaboration of Coosje van Bruggen, whom he married in 1977.

In the mid-1970s and again in the 1990s, Oldenburg and Van Bruggen collaborated with the architect Frank Gehry, breaking the boundaries between architecture and sculpture. In 1991 Oldenburg and Van Bruggen executed a binocular-shaped sculpture-building as part of Gehry's Chiat/Day building in Los Angeles.

Over the past three decades, Oldenburg's works have been the subject of numerous performances and exhibitions all over the world, including: Il Corso del Coltello, performed in Venice; Knife Ship I, a giant Swiss Army knife equipped with oars, which travelled to museums throughout America and Europe; and solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Oldenburg lives and works in New York, California, and a chateau in the Loire Valley, France.