Claes Oldenburg in the studio
Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002
Photographer: William CRUTCHFIELD

Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm in 1929 and moved to the United States with his family in 1936. He studied at Yale University from 1946 to 1950, and then worked as a reporter while taking night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved to New York in 1956, where he became an active participant in the Happenings scene after befriending Allan Kaprow and other like–minded artists.

In 1961 he recreated the interior of a typical corner–store in his studio, with sale items made from plaster. This celebration of consumer society, entitled The store, was a precursor to Oldenburg’s involvement in the Pop Art movement, which was characterised by sculptures of hugely oversized everyday objects. Several of these now iconic works were created at Gemini GEL.

Icebag—scale B, which is featured in the National Gallery’s Kenneth Tyler Collection, was completed in 1971. The work has a diameter of over one metre and was realised in collaboration with Krofft Enterprises, who designed the hydraulic system that regulates its inflation and deflation. Oldenburg produced an Ice bag print edition in conjunction with the sculptures, as well as a 16mm film, Sort of commercial for an ice bag. The National Gallery holds examples of both in its collection.
Emilie Owens


Born in Stockholm, Sweden

Family moves to Chicago, Illinois

Studies at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; receives Bachelor of Arts with majors in art history and literature

Moves to Chicago; works as apprentice reporter at City News Bureau of Chicago

Attends the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; studies under Paul Weighardt

Becomes a citizen of the United States of America

Moves to New York, New York

Solo exhibition at Cooper Union. s Museum Library and Judson Gallery, New York

Participates in Happenings, a loose association of artists including Jim Dine, Red Grooms and Robert Whitman, who created performance art performed in studios and galleries, predominantly in the 1950s and 1960s

Included in Venice biennale, Italy; included in exhibition, Contemporary painters and sculptors as printmakers, at Museum of Modern Art, New York

Completes Teabag screenprint on felt and plastic, published by Multiples, Inc., New York; included in exhibition, London-New York-Hollywood: a new look in prints, at Museum of Modern Art, New York

Completes Notes, a portfolio of lithographs, at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles, California

Travelling retrospective exhibition, Claes Oldenburg: 1954–1960, originating at Museum of Modern Art, New York; completes multiple Profile airflow at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles

Completes multiple Ice bag for Art and Technology Exhibition, United States Pavilion, at World. s Fair, Osaka, Japan, in collaboration with Gemini GEL, Los Angeles, as well as editions of Sort of a commercial for an ice bag, Typewriter erase, Red state profile airflow, Double-nose/purse/punching bag/ashtray, A history of the double-nose/purse/punching bag/ashtray multiple at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles; solo exhibition, Oldenburg at Gemini, at Print Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles; included in travelling exhibition, A selection of Gemini graphics from the collection of Mr and Mrs David Gensberg, at Dabney Gallery, California Institute of Technology, Los Angeles

Retrospective exhibition, Claes Oldenburg: object into monument, at Pasadena Art Museum, Los Angeles; included in exhibitions: Art and technology, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Technics and creativity: Gemini GEL, at Museum of Modern Art, New York; completes Ice bag scale B, Geometric mouse scale C and Geometric mouse scale D

Completes editions of Soft toilet #1–2, Soft toilet #3 –on chalk board, The letter Q as beach house with sailboat, Soft drum set, Soft drum set –on chalk board, Bread slice in sunlight #1 –King David and Profile airflow –Test mold, front end at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles; receives Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture; included in exhibition, National Print Exhibition, at Brooklyn Museum, New York

Elected to American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; travelling exhibition, Oldenburg: six themes, originating at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Completes intaglio print series published by Multiples, Inc., New York; wins first prize for sculpture, Annual exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; included in exhibition, Thirty years of American printmaking, Brooklyn Museum, New York; begins collaboration with Coosje van Bruggen

Completes lithograph, Chicago stuffed with numbers, at Tyler Graphics Ltd, Bedford Village, New York; included in exhibition, Art off the picture press, at Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, Hampstead, New York; receives Royal Order of the North Star, First Class, Sweden

Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences; included in exhibition, Art about art, at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Included in exhibitions: American prints: process and proofs, at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Contemporary American prints and drawings 1940–1980, at National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; 22nd national print exhibition, at Brooklyn Museum, New York

Included in exhibition, Paperwork, at Australian National Gallery (now National Gallery of Australia), Canberra

Included in exhibitions: Prints from Tyler Graphics, at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Gemini GEL: art and collaboration, at National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Blam! The explosion of pop, minimalism and performance 1958–64, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Included in exhibitions: Ken Tyler: printer extraordinary, at Australian National Gallery, Canberra (now National Gallery of Australia); included in travelling exhibition, Pop art 1955–70, originating at Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and travelling to Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Included in travelling exhibition, Individuals: a selected history of contemporary art 1945–86, at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Included in travelling exhibition, Pop art: USA–UK, American and British art of the 60s til the 80s, Odakyu Grand Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

Travelling solo exhibitions: Claes Oldenburg: a bottle of notes and some voyages, originating at Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Sunderland, England; Claes Oldenburg: teneningen/dessins, originating at Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels

Included in travelling exhibition, First impressions: early prints by forty-six contemporary artists, originating at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Receives award, Officier dans l. Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France

Included in travelling exhibition, High and low: modern art and popular culture, originating at Museum of Modern Art, New York

Travelling solo exhibition, Claes Oldenburg: multiples 1964–90, originating at Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; included in exhibition, Innovation in collaborative printmaking: Kenneth Tyler 1963–1992, originating at Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan

Included in exhibitions: Masters American contemporary, Museu de Arte Contemporänea, Biennial of Säo-Paulo, Brazil

Travelling exhibitions: Claes Oldenburg: an anthology, originating at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Beat culture and the new America 1950–1965, originating at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Included in exhibition, Thinking print: books to billboards 1985–95, at Museum of Modern Art, New York

Included in exhibition, Beyond print: masterworks from the Ken Tyler Collection, at Dr Earl Lu Gallery, LaSalle-SIA, Singapore

Included in exhibition, Contemporary American master prints from the Lilja Collection, at Zacheta Gallery of Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland

Included in exhibition, Encounters: new art from old, at National Gallery of Art, London, England

Solo exhibition, On the roof, at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, displaying sculptures made together with Coosje van Bruggen

Retrospective exhibition, Claes Oldenburg drawings 1959–1977 and Claes Oldenburg with Coosje van Bruggen drawings 1992–1998, at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Included in exhibition, Taste of the Modern: Rothko, Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, Kline, at Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina

Included in exhibitions: Claes Oldenburg: early sculpture, drawings, happenings and films and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen: the music room, at Whitney Museum of American Art; Soft sculpture, at National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Death of wife and collaborator Coosje van Bruggen

Included in exhibitions: Modern drawings: tracing 100 years, at Academy Art Museum, Easton, Maryland; Big sign...little building, at Office for Contemporary Art Norway, Oslo; Drawings on site: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas

Travelling solo exhibition, Claes Oldenburg: the sixties, originating at Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna, Austria; included in exhibition, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, at PKM Trinity Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Solo exhibitions: Claes Oldenburg: 'The Street' and 'The Store' and Claes Oldenburg: Mouse Museum/Ray Gun Wing, at Museum of Modern Art, New York

Claes Oldenburg currently lives and works in New York.

Barbara Delano © Tyler Graphics Ltd; revised Kate Buckingham, 2006; revised Julia Greenstreet, 2013

This chronology provides an overview of selected biographical information, major solo and group exhibitions held within the artist's own lifetime.

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated January 2017