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Claes Oldenburg

b. 1929

Claes Oldenburg, Giant BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich), 1963. Vinyl, kapok fibers, painted wood, and wood, 32 × 39 × 29 in. (81.3 × 99.1 × 73.7cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President  2002.255a-s  On view in the museum  On view in the museum
© Claes Oldenburg
Claes Oldenburg makes sculptures of ordinary objects, and in the process, he changes them in various ways, including their size and scale. Since the early 1960s, he has transformed all kinds of everyday objects, including home and office appliances, food, clothing, and musical instruments. Oldenburg’s soft sculptures, such as this Giant BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich), encourage us to see familiar things in unexpected ways.
About the artist
Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg work on Profiterole, 1989 (edition of 75) at Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles. Photograph by Sidney B.Felsen, courtesy of Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles

“Everything I do is completely original—I made it up when I was a kid.”

—Claes Oldenburg


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Claes Oldenburg came to the United States from Sweden when he was a child. To prepare for their arrival in this country, his mother cut out images of items that Americans at that time may have seen or used every day, but that he was not familiar with, and made a notebook of them to help her young son learn about the objects. 


From 1976 until 2009, Oldenburg made works of art with his wife, Coosje van Bruggen. As working partners, they created numerous public sculptures, that were often inspired by small, everyday things such as a spoon, a lipstick, or a flashlight. By making gigantic sculptures of humble, commonplace objects and installing them in public places, Oldenburg and van Bruggen gave these small objects a new beauty and importance. These works are installed in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

See some of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s large-scale sculptures on their website


“I am for U.S. Government Inspected Art, Grade A art, Regular Price art, Yellow Ripe art, Extra Fancy art, Ready-to-eat art, Fully cleaned art, Spend less art, Eat better art, Ham art, pork art, chicken art, tomato art, banana art, apple art, turkey art, cake art, cookie art . . . ”

—Claes Oldenburg



As a young artist in the 1960s, Oldenburg was involved in an early type of performance art called Happenings. He started to experiment with soft sculpture as props for these performances. Soft sculptures were Oldenburg’s invention. His recreations of common household items and food soon linked him with Pop art.

How did Claes Oldenburg prepare to move to America?
take the quiz More Quizzes

looking, listening, and sketching

“During the first two or three weeks in a new city, I try to visit as many places as possible and be taken around by people who live there and know the city.  I listen to what they say about it. Also, I try to read every newspaper and magazine on sale.  I sketch a lot.  And I observe food.”

—Claes Oldenburg

MORE WORK BY Claes Oldenburg