Claes Oldenburg (born January 28, 1929) is a Swedish sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring very large replicas of everyday objects. Another theme in his work is soft sculpture versions of everyday objects.
Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of a Swedish diplomat stationed in New York. In 1936 his father was transferred to Chicago where Oldenburg grew up, attending the Latin School Of Chicago. He studied at Yale University from 1946 to 1950, then returned to Chicago where he took classes at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While further developing his craft, he worked as a reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He also opened his own studio and, in 1953, became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His first recorded sales of artworks were at the 57th Street Art Fair in Chicago, where he sold 5 items for a total price of $25. He moved back to New York City in 1956. There he met a number of artists, including Jim Dine, Red Grooms, and Allan Kaprow, whose Happenings incorporated theatrical aspects and provided an alternative to the abstract expressionism that had come to dominate much of the art scene.
The most memorable aspects of Oldenburg's works are perhaps, the colossal sculptures that he has made in partnership with his late wife, Coosje van Bruggen. Sculptures, though quite large, often have interactive capabilities. One such interactive early sculpture was a soft sculpture of a tube of lipstick which would deflate unless a participant re-pumped air into it. In 1974, this sculpture, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, was redesigned in a sturdier aluminum form, the giant lipstick being placed vertically atop tank treads. Originally installed in Beinecke Plaza at Yale, it now resides in the Morse College courtyard.