Claes Oldenburg - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 20, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Wedding Souvenir


    Wedding Souvenir was conceived as a multiple in the form of a single slice of wedding cake made for the wedding of James Elliott to Judith Algar on April 23, 1966. Elliott was then curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and lived in an apartment over the merry-go-round on the Santa Monica Pier. The proximity of Beryl’s Studio, the souvenir casting show where two years earlier I had bought the decorative reliefs used in the California Ray Guns, must have had some influence on the conception of the Wedding Souvenir. I made the original in New York and sent it to Beryl’s, where several molds were made for the mass production of the slices. By the morning of the wedding there were probably about 250 slices; no record survives, nor can anyone remember how many were actually made, and the slices were not numbered. Many, but apparently not all, were stamped ‘Claes Oldenburg Wedding Souvenir Los Angeles 1966.’

    The photographer John Bryson, a friend of Jim’s who was covering the event for Life magazine, documented the stamping and packing of the slices and, later, their display on paper plates before the wedding reception. According to Elliot, seventy-two of the slices were tinted silver on their tops with spray enamel. Eighteen of these formed a cake, which was given to the Elliots. Single silver-tinted slices were also given to the forty-five or so member of the wedding party. The unpainted white slices were placed on paper plates for guests to take home. During the party the slices moved around freely and I signed several. The stamp also circulated. I remember worrying that Bob Rauschenberg might become ill after he stamped his tongue and insisted that I sign it with a felt pen.

    The party was held in a house in Topanga Canyon that had no electric light, but though the cakes remained visible after dusk due to their whiteness, many of the guests failed to collect them. One couple, however, took home eighteen plain white slices plus a spare, which they made into a full cake. The following morning, after the Elliotts had left on their honeymoon, the remaining slices were brought to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and subsequently accompanied the Elliotts to Jim’s new post as director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. 

    Eventually the Elliotts assembled two full cakes out of the remaining plain white slices and sold them. The cake of plain white slices assembled by the couple at the party was also sold. Because of these sales, the Wedding Souvenir is sometimes seen as a sculpture in the form of a cake, but I prefer to insist on its original identify as part of a cake – a multiple in the form of a slice.” Claes Oldenburg quoted in Claes Oldenburg: Multiples in Retrospect 1964 – 1990, p.40


    Multiples before the Elliott wedding in Topanga Canyon, California, April 23, 1966. Photograph by John Bryson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images. 
    Multiples before the Elliott wedding in Topanga Canyon, California, April 23, 1966. Photograph by John Bryson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images.

    Baked Potato


    Baked Potato is a free-standing object...How to paint the work seemed to me a critical decision. It should be hand-painted like the unique work, but the hand-painting should be removed, objectified in some way in keeping with the work’s mass-production character. I solved this by asking the painter John Wesley to do the work. He in turn suppressed his individuality by following a scheme I provided that culminated in a mor-or-less random spray of green spots - “chives” - applied with a toothbrush. It was a balance of individuality, objectivity, and chance, such as that developed in the Happenings earlier in the 1960s. The multiple object was for me the sculptor’s solution to making a print.” Claes Oldenburg quoted in Claes Oldenburg: Multiples in Retrospect 1964 – 1990, p. 34




    “For several years, when an illness prevented my Coosje from eating the food served in restaurants, I would draw her favorite foods whenever we dined out. I also drew food for her when I traveled alone, as a kind of account of my experiences. Coosje gathered these vicarious meals, mostly done on three-by-five-inch pages of my notebooks and mounted on typewriter sheets in a looseleaf binder, until she was restored to health in 1989.

    Different styles were used, depending on the situation and the mood. Sometimes we ignored the menu and combined our imaginations to produce a dish that had never been seen before, like our profiterole, which is nothing like the pastry usually served under that name. Coosje is from the Netherlands; she thinks her special fondness for profiteroles dates from the time she was four years old, when the sudden availability of chocolate represented for her the end of World War II.


    Photograph © 1989 Sidney B. Felsen. Courtesy Gemini G.E.L.

    In 1988, at Coosje’s suggestion, our version of a profiterole became the point of departure for an edition made to benefit the Hereditary Disease Foundation. As it turned out, profiteroles were also the favorite dessert of the foundation’s head, Dr. Milton Wexler. 


    After several failed attempts to shape Profiterole entirely out of clay, I fell back on the imitation of culinary techniques in plaster developed for my exhibition of Paris food in 1964. Plaster ‘ice-cream’ and ‘sauce’ were scooped and poured repeatedly until a satisfying result was obtained; this was then fastened between two sections of polystyrene ‘pastry’ and cast in plaster. Unlike the Paris pieces, which remained in plaster with a tint of watercolor, Profiterole was recast in aluminum and then painted with opaque latex.” Claes Oldenburg quoted in Claes Oldenburg: Multiples in Retrospect 1964 – 1990, p. 138


    Photograph © 1989 Sidney B. Felsen. Courtesy Gemini G.E.L.
    • Provenance

      Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston (Wedding Souvenir)
      Dorothy Blau Gallery, Miami (Baked Potato; Profiterole and N.Y.C. Pretzel)
      Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles
      Christie's New York, Prints and Multiples, May 1, 2006, lot 585 (Profiterole)

    • Literature

      David Platzker 5, Multiples in Retrospect (Wedding Souvenir)
      David Platzker 3, Multiples in Retrospect (Baked Potato)
      Gemini G.E.L. 1457 (Profiterole); David Platzker 22, Multiples in Retrospect (Profiterole)
      Richard Axsom and David Platzker 250.1, Printed Stuff (N.Y.C. Pretzel)

Property from an Important Private Collection


Wedding Souvenir; Baked Potato; Profiterole; and N.Y.C. Pretzel (P. 5; P. 3; G. 1457, P. 22; A. & P. 250.1)

Four multiples, one in cast plaster with hand-painting, one in cast resin with hand-painting with original Shenango china dish, one in cast aluminum with hand-painting and one screenprint in colors on three-ply cardboard.
largest 10 1/2 x 7 x 5 in. (26.7 x 17.8 x 12.7 cm)
smallest 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 5/8 in. (16.5 x 16.5 x 1.6 cm)

Wedding Souvenir signed on the underside in black ink (slightly faded), from the edition of 72 with the hand-applied silver glitter (there was also an edition of approximately 200), commissioned for the wedding of James Elliott and Judith Algar, Topanga Canyon, California, Baked Potato signed with initials and numbered 60/125 in black marker on the underside, Profiterole signed, dated, titled and numbered 21/25 by engraving on the underside (an artist's copy, the edition was 75), published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles (with their stamp), N.Y.C. Pretzel stamped with the artist's signature and copyright stamp on the reverse, from the unlimited edition, published by I. C. Editions and David Platzker, New York.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 25,000 

Sold for $23,940

Contact Specialist

212 940 1220


Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 20 - 22 April 2021