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Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929)
Andy Williams: An American Legend
Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929)

Soft Baked Potato, Open and Thrown--Scale B

Details
Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929)
Soft Baked Potato, Open and Thrown--Scale B
signed and dated 'Oldenburg 1970' (on the interior of the potato)
canvas, stuffed canvas, zipper and painted wood
9 x 25 x 16 in. (22.8 x 63.5 x 40.6 cm.)
Executed in 1970. This work is unique.
Provenance
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Janie C. Lee Gallery, Houston
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 7 May 1990, lot 53
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Exhibited
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New Work by Claes Oldenburg, November 1970, no. 9.
Pasadena Art Museum, Claes Oldenburg: Object into Monument, 1971.
Minami Gallery, Tokyo, Claes Oldenburg, 1973, no. 11.
Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum, American Still Life--1945-1983, September-November 1983, p. 91 (illustrated).

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Jennifer Yum
Jennifer Yum

Lot Essay

"I have always felt the need of correspondence between one's art and one's life. I feel the purpose is to say something about my timesfor me this involves a recreation of my vision of the timesmy reality, or my drama-reality, and this demands a form of a theatrical nature" - Claes Oldenburg, 1960
(C. Oldenburg, quoted in G. Celant, 'Claes Oldenburg and the Feeling of Things,' in G. Celant, D. Koepplin & M. Rosenthal (eds.), Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum/National Gallery of Art, New York & Washington, 1995, p. 23).
The soft, supple form of Claes Oldenburg's 1970 sculpture Soft Baked Potato is the artist's contribution to the Pop movement. Like them, Oldenburg wanted to celebrate the ordinary and the everyday and to blur the boundaries between high art and popular culture. Yet unlike other Pop artists, who manifested their ideas in flat forms that replicated mass-produced printed material, Oldenburg produced work that celebrated forms in three dimensions. Soft Baked Potato, with its clever parody of the crisp golden skin of the baked potato peeled back to expose the soft fluffy white interior topped with two neat pats of butter, espouses the same ideas of abundance as Andy Warhol's ubiquitous Coke bottles or cans of Campbell's Soup. Yet rather than appropriating an existing brand like Warhol did, Oldenburg adopts the ubiquitous potato, responding to the same debate but in a decidedly non-commercial, more domestic way.

The baked potato is a long running motif in Oldenburg's work. It first appeared as one of the artist's soft sculptures in the early sixties and by 1964 Oldenburg was developing hard versions of these soft sculptures, this time made from plaster. In addition to numerous drawings, the baked potato made its appearance again in 1966, complete with random spray of green spots imitating chives, as part of the portfolio, Seven Objects in a Box. Returning to the object in 1970, the artist included a decidedly playful aspect to his Soft Baked Potato. By adding a metal zipper that runs along the opening at the top of the baked potato he introduces an almost cartoonish quality to the work-imbuing it with a sense of humor that had been missing in earlier versions. Despite their outwardly simple appearance, Oldenburg's work can offer up a multitude of readings and subtle nuances. Indeed the soft curves of his sculptures, do invite the human touch-something normally forbidden in the realms of high art-and something which the artist himself has recognized. "At the bottom of everything I have done," Oldenburg commented, "the most radical effects, is the desire to touch and be touched. Each thing is an instrument of sensuous communication" - Claes Oldenburg, 1963. (C. Oldenburg, quoted in G. Celant, 'Claes Oldenburg and the Feeling of Things,' in G. Celant, D. Koepplin & M. Rosenthal (eds.), Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum/National Gallery of Art, New York & Washington, 1995, p. 21).

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