In the early 1960s, Claes Oldenburg redefined the concept of sculpture. This exhibition offers the most comprehensive overview of Oldenburg’s early career to date, including The Store, the artist’s best-known body of work from this period. In December 1961, Oldenburg rented a small storefront on East Second Street in New York City and filled it with handmade, brightly painted sculptures that evoked the everyday commercial products sold in stores throughout the neighborhood. Oldenburg created several iterations of The Store in the years following, and for this exhibition a large selection of Store sculptures and drawings are brought together to demonstrate the breadth and complexity of Oldenburg’s vision as well as the daring inventiveness of his execution. Oldenburg’s rarely exhibited installation The Street is also on view. Predating The Store, this seminal body of work was inspired by the gritty environs of the Lower East Side in the late 1950s.
A selection of Oldenburg’s performances, which accompanied these early sculptural endeavors, are represented by films projected throughout the galleries. On view in The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium are the Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing. Created in the 1970s, these self-contained “museums” house careful arrangements of the artist’s personal archives of American popular culture, as well as various tests and experiments from his studio. The exhibition is organized by Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.