Claes Oldenburg’s Store, 1961

In the winter of 1961, Claes Oldenburg opened a store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (107E. 2nd St) selling his work, circumventing the usual practice of selling art  through a gallery.

He had created an eclectic array of objects- from lady’s lingerie to rib eye steak- from roughly painted plaster in the back of the store, selling them in the front.  Most of the items are strangely proportioned or of a large scale, playing around with the idea of commodity and art.  They were ‘objects after the spirit and in the form of popular objects of merchandise’.

The idea was to create a store, or at least the functional equivalent of one.  In the photograph one can see that the works were piled high, hanging off the walls and ceiling, layed out on counters, as though they were part of an ‘Everything must go’ sale.

‘You could buy a relief of a rumpled girdle for $249.95, a Big Sandwich (1961) for $149.98; the 9.99 (1961) hanging in the front window went for $399.95. The slapdash painted sculptures mostly replicated coffee-shop food and bargain basement clothing, but mannequins, bits of signs, a wilting red-ribboned Success Plant (1961) and even the cash till were up for grabs.’

Now the objects are in major art collections across the world, taking them from their original context, perhaps ‘gentrifying’ them into isolated art works that sit on a plinth.

Quotes from ‘Taking Stock- Claes Oldenburg’s Store’ by Steve Stern, Frieze magazine, June-August 2003.

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