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Claes Oldenburg

Soft Toilet
1966

Not on view

Date
1966

Classification
Sculpture

Medium
Wood, vinyl, kapok, wire, plexiglass on metal stand and painted wood base

Dimensions
Overall: 56 1/8 × 31 5/16 × 30 1/8in. (142.6 × 79.5 × 76.5 cm)

Accession number
79.83a-c

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Victor W. Ganz

Rights and reproductions
© Claes Oldenburg

In 1961, Claes Oldenburg wrote a manifesto asserting his radical artistic position: “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.” Soft Toilet, a work that eschews the conventional properties of the art object, does not sit on anything—even a pedestal, like much sculpture—but rather hangs from a metal support. Oldenburg emerged as a Pop artist in the early 1960s with his so-called “soft” sculptures of quotidian objects, such as this work. Here he transforms the toilet—a factory-produced, rigid porcelain symbol of modern hygiene—into a hand-sewn, pliable object made of stuffed vinyl. Beginning, as he usually did, with drawings of the fixture, Oldenburg produced three separate iterations of the toilet: a hard version constructed out of cardboard, a soft model of sewn canvas (which he called the “ghost” version), and the vinyl Soft Toilet. Limp and drooping like an aging human body, Soft Toilet is endowed with a personality and sense of drama all its own.




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