CLAES OLDENBURG (1929-2022) and COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (1942-2009)
CLAES OLDENBURG (1929-2022) and COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (1942-2009)
CLAES OLDENBURG (1929-2022) and COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (1942-2009)
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CLAES OLDENBURG (1929-2022) and COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (1942-2009)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
CLAES OLDENBURG (1929-2022) and COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (1942-2009)

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X

CLAES OLDENBURG (1929-2022) and COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (1942-2009)
Typewriter Eraser, Scale X
stamped with the artists' signatures, titled, numbered and dated 'CO.Cos TYPEWRITER ERASER SCALE X 3/3 1999' (on the base)
stainless steel, fiberglass and acrylic polyurethane paint
232 x 143 1/2 x 140 1/4 in. (589 x 364.5 x 356.2 cm.)
Executed in 1998-1999. This work is number three from an edition of three plus an artist's proof.
PaceWildenstein, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1999.
I. Molotsky, “A Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery,” in New York Times, 9 May 1999 (another example illustrated, p. 3).
E. Kinsella and B. Hughes, “Art Goes Outdoors,” in Wall Street Journal, 21 May 1999 (another example illustrated, p. W2).
B. Gamarekian, “Miró and Murrow, D.C.’s Latest Attractions,” in New York Times, 13 February 2000 (another example illustrated, p. 21).
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen: Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, New York, Center for Public Sculpture, June 2001-December 2002 (another example exhibited).
Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, September 2006-June 2016 (on loan).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Further details
Other examples from the edition reside in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X is an outstanding example of the pair’s large-scale conceptual sculptures. A colossal, gleaming disk-shaped eraser nestles in the landscape, carefully—yet inextricably—placed on the ground, the majestic blue bristles of its brush turned upward. The result is a profound aesthetic experience in the beautiful form of a common object made strange, scaled up and frozen in balletic motion. One of Oldenburg’s favorite office supplies, the typewriter eraser has personal resonances for the artist: as a child, the young Claes enjoyed playing with a typewriter eraser in his father’s office. Commemorating an old childhood memory and a now obsolescent office supply, Typewriter Eraser, Scale X subverts sculptural conventions as it questions the idea of the monument or memorial (as postmodernist art historian and critic Rosalind Krauss has noted, the logic of sculpture is inseparable from the logic of the monument).The pair have visually explored the functional yet nostalgic typewriter eraser across media, going as far as to imagine it as a towering monument. One of Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s most loved sculptures, the present example was on long term loan to the Seattle Art Museum for over a decade, and another example from this edition can be found in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X features a smooth metal disk against a bold red circular ground in a glorious magnification of a metal mechanism clasping an eraser. From the end of the disk spring blue bristles, fanning as if in spirited motion. The bristles bring an industrial inflection to Pablo Picasso’s notion of “drawing in space.” A sleek vision, the present sculpture takes a ‘found design,’ or once ubiquitous object, and draws profound beauty from it. “I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero,” Oldenburg wrote in his 1961 manifesto, I Am For An Art (C. Oldenburg, “I Am For an Art,” in C. Oldenburg and Emmett Williams (eds.), Store Days, Documents from the Store (1961) and Ray Gun Theater (1962), New York, 1967). The humble typewriter eraser, unaware of its grand aesthetic potential, is one such art. The pair enlarge the eraser’s scale with a nod to the gigantism of Pop and advertising, and also to the traditions of monumental sculpture that date back to the Renaissance, refining and abstracting its form with an eye to art history.

Because of their inherent availability in every workplace, office supplies were a rich source of inspiration for the artists, and they sculpted stamps, scissors, and typewriters. However, the strangely exuberant typewriter eraser had special significance to Oldenburg. In his Notes—the artist compulsively kept notebooks of sketches, writings, and ephemera—Oldenburg included a 1968 magazine photo of a typewriter eraser that would provide the basis for this motif, which the artist explored in drawing, prints, and sculpture and across a range of scales. Oldenburg considered the eraser to be a “fine anti-heroic object” for a colossal public sculpture. In the early 1970s a sketch by the artist depicted a monumental version in an imagined landscape; he also envisioned another version towering alongside office buildings in a plaza on 57th Street in Manhattan. By the time of the present work’s creation, the pair had wholly turned away from their earlier soft sculptures—depicting objects as varied as hamburgers, slices of cake, and light switches—and toward the more industrial-looking, monumental approach that made them a household name.

“I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical,” wrote the artist (C. Oldenburg, “I Am For an Art,” in C. Oldenburg and Emmett Williams (eds.), Store Days, Documents from the Store (1961) and Ray Gun Theater (1962), New York, 1967). Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s sculptures intriguingly vacillate between a literalization of the commodity fetish and a proclamation of the mystical beauty of common objects—a beauty available to anyone, if they are open to a visual encounter retooling their perception. Typewriter Eraser, Scale X aptly demonstrates the pair’s widely celebrated capacity to bring out the magic in the humdrum. With its nostalgic associations for the artist, the present sculpture feels like a personal monument to a child’s rich imaginative ability to see things a little bit differently.

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