Claes Oldenburg - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Crousel-Robelin, Paris
    Private Collection, 1989
    Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art Part I, November 17, 1999, lot 48
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Sunderland, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen: A Bottle of Notes and Some Voyages, February 2 - March 26, 1988, then traveled to Leeds, Leeds City Art Gallery (April 27 - June 26, 1988), London, The Serpentine Gallery (July 8 - August 29, 1988), Swansea, The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery (September 17 - November 12, 1988), Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts (November 27 - December 30, 1988), Duisburg, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Museum (January 22 - March 27, 1989) Malmö, Malmö Konsthall (April 29 - August 6, 1989), Valencia, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Centre Julio González (September 15 - November 15, 1989), Tampere, Tampereen taidemuseo (January 12 - March 6, 1990) (another example exhibited)
    Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, February 12 - May 7, 1995, then traveled to Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (July 2 - September 3, 1995), New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (October 6, 1995 - January 21, 1996), Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepubilk Deutschland (February 23 - May 12, 1996), London, Hayward Gallery (June 6 - August 19, 1996) (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1995, p. 336, no. 199 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary…I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.”


    Oldenburg's fascination with elevating mundane objects to something "higher" first manifested itself in his Store project -- a "store-cum-art-gallery" -- first presented at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1961, and then resurrected in a shopfront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With the Store, Oldenburg embraced the commodities of materialist culture as subject matter, recreating foodstuffs and merchandise in brightly painted plaster and kapok stuffed canvas. Spending time in Los Angeles in the fall and spring of 1963-64, Oldenburg was inspired to approach the product lines of industry and technology using manufacturing methodology and he gradually began to abandon the malleability, tactility and fleshiness of his soft sculptures to create works that could withstand the elements and that more accurately resembled the objects he was representing.

    Inverted Q – Black from 1976-88 is one of the fascinating examples within Oldenburg’s oeuvre in which he has reworked an earlier concept for a soft sculpture in a solid material. Oldenburg first conceived of the work in response to a commission he had received for the Akron Public Library garden. Initially wishing to cast the sculpture in rubber, as it was the predominant industry in Akron at the time, he incorporated the effects of gravity on an inverted “Q” into the final design, flattening the bottom and causing the tail to droop. The idea to use the form of an inverted “Q” first began germinating in response to the artist’s visit to Los Angeles, where he first observed the colossal letters of the Hollywood sign and the power which they exert upon the city.

    Continuing to explore the notion of type and lettering, Oldenburg began working on a series of drawings, later developed into a portfolio of lithographs with Gemini G.E.L. fine art printers in Los Angeles, of oversized letters incorporated into the landscape and worked into new forms, such as a Good Humor ice cream bar. Related to his earlier Store work with text now incorporated, Oldenburg’s sculpture of this type is quintessential American Pop.

    Starting with letter itself, Oldenburg transforms it into something both sensual and massive. Its inflated, curved forms mirror those of his soft, tactile sculptures done in kapok and canvas, but its gloss and seeming malleability belie its rigidity. Assuming anthropomorphic qualities, the Q becomes a reflection of the body, navel-like and even erotic; the high sheen and tactility of the surface invite the viewer to examine the work more closely, to see his or herself reflected therein. Interestingly, the decision to invert the form came about as a rather pragmatic decision “because a Q with its tail buried wouldn’t be a Q at all.” (C. Oldenburg, “History of the Alphabet/Good Humor,” in Claes Oldenburg: The Alphabet in L.A., exh. cat., Los Angeles: Margo Leavin Gallery, 1975, n.p.)

    Inverted Q – Black is closely related to many of Oldenburg’s more monumental sculptures especially his Typewriter Eraser – Scale X from 1999 installed at the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden. Similar in form even, Inverted Q – Black most accurately reflects Germano Celant’s musings on the artist’s more massively scaled works as the viewer, “witness[es] the liberation of the object that asserts itself as reality, though from an anomalous point of view, that of its feeling—part sensual, part fantastic—as it is itself and thus acquires a radical, extreme exteriority. It expands and transcends its own specific occasion...It puts itself on the stage and lets itself be penetrated and possessed, like architecture, which incorporates the organic, desires it and makes it its own, welcomes it, touches it, brings it into itself and possesses it, thus enacting the definitive passage of the organic into the inorganic…” (G. Celant, “Claes Oldenburg and the Feeling of Things” in Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1995, p. 31)


Inverted Q - Black

cast resin painted with latex
72 x 76 x 54 in. (182.9 x 193 x 137.2 cm.)
Imprinted "C.O. AP I/II 1988" on brass marker on upper edge of the surface.
This work is artist's proof 1 of an unrealized edition comprised of 2 artist's proofs in black and 1 trial proof in white.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM