Audio: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, French Horns, Unwound and Entwined
Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) and Coosje Van Bruggen (1942-2009)
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Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) and Coosje Van Bruggen (1942-2009)

French Horns, Unwound and Entwined

Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) and Coosje Van Bruggen (1942-2009)
French Horns, Unwound and Entwined
incised with initials and numbered '1/3 CO.Cos' (on the underside of the gray element)
stainless steel and aluminum painted with polyurethane
134½ x 70 x 64 in. (341.6 x 177.8 x 162.5 cm.)
Executed in 2005. This work is number one from an edition of three plus one artist's proof.
PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M.-P. Nakamura, "Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen," Art Actuel no. 39, July-August 2005, p. 76.
Claes Oldenburg Coosje van Bruggen: Sculpture by the Way, exh. cat., Rivoli-Turin, Castello de Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Milan, 2006, p. 340 (another example illustrated).
V. Thorpe, "Horns provide plenty of entertainment as London fair crowns record year for art," The Observer, October 7, 2007, p. 5 (another example cited).
G. Harris, "Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen: making music," The Art Newspaper, October 11, 2007, p. 10 (another example cited).
A. Glimcher, Pace Gallery: 50 Years at Pace, New York, 2010, p. 222 (another example illustrated in color).
K. Wilton, "Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen," Art + Auction vol. XXXVI, issue 7, March 2013, p. 126 (another example illustrated in color).
New York, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen: The Music Room, April-June 2005, cat. no. 5, pp. 17, 20-21 and 44, no. 21 (this example illustrated in color).
London, Waddington Galleries, Double Vision: The Poetic Focus of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, October, 2007, p. 47, no. 19 (another example illustrated in color and exhibited).
Seoul, PKM Trinity Gallery, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, November 2012-January 2013, no. 7 (another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

Nowhere is the creative partnership of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen more magnificently realized than in French Horns, Unwound and Entwined, 2005. In this masterful work, two horns are intertwined in such a way that it is impossible to tell where one horn ends and the other begins. It is a crystalline example of what Robert Morphet describes about the work of this pair of artists in his essay,"If Music Be the Food of Love, Play OnNew Sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen." "The two artists' inputs," he says, " become so integrated that in many finished works it is almost as if, whatever a sculpture may depict, an important part of the subject is their partnership." (Robert Morphet in Claes Oldenburg Coosje Van Bruggen: Sculpture By the Way. Milan: Skira Editore, S.p.A., 2006, 317.) The bright yellow swirling loops and arcs of the instruments encircle each other in a way that imbues the sculpture with a magical, anthropomorphic quality that exudes all the joy and warmth of a human embrace.
Reflecting the way Oldenburg and van Bruggen work together as individuals, the horns wrap around the same shared core, but two sets of fingers keys and valves, painted in silver, stand out as separate entities intimating two hearts or brains. The open mouthpieces of the instruments are also separate, at opposite ends of a single vertical line, suggesting at once the harmony and discord between male and female. Just as one can't separate the role of the musician and the instrument in producing beautiful music, one can't separate the role of the individual artists in the creation of this extraordinary work that is the result of a what van Bruggen has called "a unity of opposites, a convergence of our different dynamics of symmetry and asymmetry." (Ibid., 18)
The fusion that created their works was a process of steps from conception to drawing to execution that both follow each and overlap. Often the idea was conceived by van Bruggen and first realized in a notebook sketch by Oldenburg. From this point, as Morphet elucidates, "concept and image develop in tandem through stages propelled by a dialogue to which the artists contribute equally. Each introduces surprise into the transaction, and as the work evolves it becomes impossible to define them simply as conceiver (van Bruggen) and maker (Oldenburg), for their roles interchange unpredictably."
French Horns, Unwound and Entwined is part of a family of inventive sculptures of musical instruments that reflect the artists' personal and public lives. In 1992 Oldenburg and van Bruggen created a music room for their home, the Chteau de la Border at Beaumont-sur-Dême, in the Loire Valley. The walls and floor of the room are chock full of delightful - albeit unplayable -- instruments enlarged to human scale. "The Music Room" became the theme of an exhibit of which the present lot was part of at PaceWildenstein in New York in 2005.
The partnership of van Bruggen and Oldenburg began more than three decades ago. Shortly after Oldenburg's Clothespin was installed in downtown Philadelphia in 1976-his first sculpture to be enlarged for an urban space-he and van Bruggen began to collaborate conceiving and creating more than 40 large-scaled projects for various public spaces throughout the world including Rincon Park, San Francisco; Denver Art Museum; the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Tokyo International Exhibition Center; Piazzale Cadorna, Milan; and Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona.
While Oldenburg brings to the partnership the sensibilities that presaged Pop Art and made him an influential member of that movement, van Bruggen showed her training as an art historian and admirer of Vermeer. Oldenburg has said, "I enjoy taking vision literally; for example, making a pencil as large as a skyscraper. Van Bruggen, meanwhile is drawn to Vermeer's interiors that are alive with an "intensity of relationships and the immediacy that he brings to inanimate objects," as Morphet explains and goes on to say that "at the heart of Vermeer's importance for Oldenburg and van Bruggen is his use of still life to open vistas of a life that is anything but still." (Ibid., 317)
Such is the case with French Horns, Unwound and Entwined, in which this bright, cheerful sculpture reverberates with the joy of music, and the warmth of the human touch.

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