Claes Oldenburg - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    Irving Blum Gallery, Los Angeles
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1968)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Irving Blum Gallery, Claes Oldenburg, June 2 - August 2, 1968
    Pasadena Art Museum, Claes Oldenburg: Object into Monument, December 7, 1971 - February 6, 1972, no. 33
    Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Claes Oldenburg: In the Studio, August 2, 1992 - February 14, 1993, no. 51

  • Catalogue Essay

    "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...I am for an art that you can hammer with, stitch with, sew with, paste with, file with...I am for the art of punching and skinned knees and sat-on bananas." Claes Oldenburg

    Executed in 1968, Punching Bag is a quintessential example of Claes Oldenburg’s surrealist inflected Pop sculpture practice. Punching Bag developed out of Oldenburg’s fascination with the object in the late 1960s, a remarkably productive period of increasing recognition for the artist in which he became known for his oversized soft sculptures of mundane items such as hamburgers, flags and plugs. Punching Bag is accompanied by a small drawn study from 1971, Notebook Page: Views of the Punching Bag. Acquired by the Fitermans directly from Oldenburg, this work is not only a testament to their enduring friendship with the artist, it also offers insights into the critical role of drawing in Oldenburg’s artistic process, which begins with an initial series of drawings before moving on to additional drafts, cardboard models and, ultimately, the final work. A larger drawing of another work in the series is held by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

    Oldenburg is known for his appropriation of industrially fabricated objects from the urban environment, recreating them in a range of forms and various scales. The present work is remarkable for its large scale in comparison to other works from the late 1960s, which would continue for the next half decade in the form of sculpture, miniature multiples in boxes and lithographs. This “serialized” repetition of objects, varying in size and scale, is a key component of Oldenburg’s practice, which figured as a central theme in the 2018 dual exhibition Claes Oldenburg: Shelf Life at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, juxtaposing Oldenburg’s meticulously chosen creations with a selection of 17th century Dutch still life paintings.

    Displaced and decontextualized from their normal environment, Oldenburg’s objects are always both metaphorical and richly associative, underscoring the influence of Surrealist ideas regarding the transformation of the everyday object into something dreamlike and strange. For Oldenburg, Punching Bag suggests the stasis of motion through the contrast of its heavy sack against the smooth wood of the base. Oldenburg writes on the theme: “The Punching bag is about the drop shape – the state of suspension. Punching bags are suspended from a wooden disk, against which the bag bounces. This disk suggests a halo, or a parasol. The object appears sheltered. That form seemed adaptable to a tomb, a shield, a bag of bones. As a tomb, the Punching Bag reclines, and the drop is shriveled, like a fallen fruit” (Claes Oldenburg, quoted in Claes Oldenburg: Object into Monument, Pasadena, 1971, p. 75).

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


Punching Bag

signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated " punching bag CO 68" on the wood disc
canvas stuffed with kapok, mounted on wood
bag 36 x 18 1/4 in. (91.4 x 46.4 cm)
disc diameter 20 in. (73.7 cm)
overall 50 1/2 x 20 x 19 in. (128.3 x 50.8 x 48.3 cm.)

Executed in 1968.

This work is accompanied by the drawing Notebook Page: Views of the Punching Bag, circa 1971, 5 x 3 in., acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $200,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue