Claes Oldenburg, Floor Burger (1962)
Floor Burger, 1962 (acrylic on canvas filled with foam rubber and cardboard boxes)
Oldenburg, Claes (b.1929)
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
acrylic on canvas filled with foam rubber and cardboard boxes
The Art Gallery of Ontario purchased the Floor Burger from the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York on Jan. 27, 1967, for $2,000. The work, created in 1962 by pop art pioneer Claes Oldenburg, was initially titled Giant Hamburger.
Perhaps already worried about potential controversy that would ignite regarding the acquisition of a giant canvas hamburger, the original gallery press release from Feb. 4, 1967, includes a quotation from then-director of the gallery, William J. Withrow, which states, “The Giant Hamburger has been bought with funds donated and ear-marked specifically for the purchase of contemporary Canadian and American Art. Never in the history of the Art Gallery has one cent of tax money ever been spent on the purchase of a work of art.”
Contemporary art is often controversial, and Floor Burger was no exception. Students from Central Technical School’s art department created a 2,7m -high ketchup bottle to protest the acquisition of Oldenburg’s work. Fifty students, along with their teachers, then cheerfully paraded the bottle in front on the Gallery along Dundas Street. They then tried to donate the bottle to the Gallery.
Brydon Smith, the curator of modern art, told the Globe & Mail that “the students’ action was marvelous. This sort of art should be controversial,” but said they could not accept the bottle because it was not considered an important and original work of art.
In an interview published in The Toronto Telegram on Feb. 9, 1967, Withrow explained, “A museum attempts to document various turning points in history. The Hamburger represents Oldenburg’s introduction of soft sculpture. You’ll find the first plane ever made in a museum, but if someone made a plane like it today, no museum would want it.”
The artist himself even commented on the student protest: “This doesn’t hurt my feelings at all. My work is going to get old soon enough. Perhaps they will come my way.” Oldenburg also added: “They should have made it out of something soft.” (from the pages of Art Gallery of Ontario)
This type of controversy typically follow the work of early pop art artists. Perhaps the best-loved artist of the Pop Art movement, Claes Oldenburg is known for his playfully surreal sculptures that find new meaning in the everyday objects by expanding them to a gargantuan scale or deflating them into floppy, funny shells. Oldenburg fell in with Pop— a vernacular approach to art that mocked the somber bravado of Abstract Expressionism—after moving to New York in 1956. But whereas artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein took popular media as their inspiration, Oldenburg found his muse in hamburgers, electric fans, bagels, and other familiar comforts. The idea of soft sculpture comes to his mind in 1957. Then Oldenburg used the woman’s stocking stuff with newspaper to create a free hanging piece.
In September 1962, a solo exhibition of Oldenburg’s work opened at the Green Gallery, a commodious space at 15 West Fifty-Seventh Street in midtown Manhattan. Inspired by the luxury cars and grand pianos in midtown showrooms, Oldenburg had decided to make sculptures of an equivalent scale. Plaster was ill-suited to the task–too fragile and heavy–and so the artist, with the assistance of his then wife, Patty Mucha, a skilled seamstress, created sculptures of fabric. Working in the gallery, Oldenburg and Mucha made Floor Burger, Floor Cake, and Floor Cone, three oversized soft sculptures
“I like to work with very simple ideas,” Oldenburg has said. Despite their simplicity, Floor Burger, Floor Cake, and Floor Cone were groundbreaking artworks. Their soft, pliant, and colorful bodies challenged the convention that sculpture is rigid and austere, and their subject matter and colossal scale infused humor and whimsy into the often sober space of fine art. With this work Oldenburg proposed an alternate form of monumental sculpture, saluting subjects from contemporary American life. The following year, the artist began to make soft sculptures from colored vinyl.
Philosophically, Oldenburg saw himself as a realist, not as an abstract artist. He felt art must relate to the realities of everyday life. Yet he took objects from the real world and placed them out of context, making them soft when they should be hard, large when they should be small. This paradox in his art grew out of his own nature, which was a complex mix of traditional and radical elements.
The Burger is „sloppy work of art“ as noticed one of the visitors, badly painted and sewed, but all on purpose… nevertheless, what we can learn of it? Every startling piece of nature should be capable to stimulating the meaning.
Claes Oldenburg, in full Claes Thure Oldenburg (born Jan. 28, 1929, Stockholm,Sweden), Swedish-born American Pop-art sculptor, best known for his giant soft sculptures of everyday objects.
Much of Oldenburg’s early life was spent in the United States, Sweden, and Norway, a result of moves his father made as a Swedish consular official. He was educated at Yale University (1946–50), where writing was his main interest, and he worked from 1950 to 1952 as an apprentice reporter for the City News Bureau in Chicago.
In 1977 Oldenburg married Coosje van Bruggen, his second wife. The couple began to collaborate on commissions, and from 1981 her signature also appeared on their work.