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Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen Drawings


The Whitney Museum of American Art has announced the acquisition of a major group of drawings by Pop master Claes Oldenburg, including works done in collaboration with his partner, Coosje van Bruggen. This acquisition of 88 works gives the Whitney Museum a collection of Oldenburg drawings that is unparalleled in size and importance. (right: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Blueberry Pie a la Mode, Sliding Down a Hill, 1996, charcoal and pastel, 39 5/8 x 30 1/4 inches, Collection of the artist. Photograph by Ellen Page Wilson)

The acquisition was led by the Whitney Museum's drawings curator, Janie C. Lee, and primarily supported by a private foundation funded by Whitney Chairman Leonard A. Lauder and his wife, Evelyn. These works were purchased from, among other significant sources, Kimiko and the late John Powers, whose landmark collection was built on the couple's close relationship with the most significant American artists of the last 40 years. The acquisition marks the Whitney's continuing commitment to collecting in depth drawings by significant American artists, beginning with a major acquisition of Brice Marden drawings in 1998-99.

These recently acquired works will be presented together for the first time in an exhibition at the Whitney from June 7 to September 15, 2002. At the same time, in conjunction with the Whitney exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will display several of Oldenburg and van Bruggen's major new sculptures on its rooftop; some of the drawings in the Whitney exhibition, such as Dream Pin and Blueberry Pie, are studies for those works.

Whitney Museum Director Maxwell L. Anderson said, "In one step, the Whitney has become the primary repository for the graphic work of this remarkable pair of artists. Leonard Lauder has once again shown how a single collector and patron can reshape an institution's holdings. We are also extremely grateful to Claes and Coosje for their generous gift of ten of their drawings to the Whitney Museum on the occasion of this exhibition." (left: Claes Oldenburg, Dream Pin, 1998, pencil and colored pencil, 30 x 40 inches, Collection of the artist. Photography by See Spot Run, Inc., Toronto, Canada)

Curator Janie C. Lee noted, "These drawings let us into the creative process of one of our greatest draftsmen. In them, we see the beginnings of what would become iconic works - Soft Shuttlecock and Giant Lipstick, for example -- and we also see an astonishing variety of subjects. They will be important for future scholars and artists in understanding the genesis of many of Oldenburg and van Bruggen's large-scale projects."

The exhibition includes 92 drawings from the Whitney Museum collection. Seventy-four works by Oldenburg from the 1960s, early in his career, will be on view in the Ames Family Gallery on the Museum's fifth floor. Eighteen later works, made in collaboration with van Bruggen, will be shown in the Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Lobby Gallery.

Claes Oldenburg was born on January 28, 1929, in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied art and literature at Yale from 1946 to 1950 and pursued courses at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York in 1956. During the 1960s, he began transforming the mundane objects of daily life into works of art, becoming one of the key figures of the Pop- art movement and later becoming well known for his soft sculptures. Since the Happenings of the early 1960s, Oldenburg has often worked in fruitful collaboration with other artists. Since 1976, he has worked with art historian and writer Coosje van Bruggen to produce numerous large-scale projects that have been installed in urban centers throughout America and Europe.

A catalog accompanying the exhibition includes a foreword by Maxwell L. Anderson, an introduction by Janie C. Lee, an interview with Oldenburg, reproductions of all 92 drawings in the exhibition and a checklist.

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