The Getty Research Institute (GRI) has recently announced the acquisition of the vast and richly varied archives of the acclaimed artist Claes Oldenburg (Swedish/American, b.1929), and his collaborator and wife Coosje van Bruggen (Dutch/American, 1942-2009), a noted curator, artist, and art historian.
The Getty Research Institute (GRI) has recently announced the acquisition of the vast and richly varied archives of the acclaimed artist Claes Oldenburg (Swedish/American, b.1929), and his collaborator and wife Coosje van Bruggen (Dutch/American, 1942-2009), a noted curator, artist, and art historian. The collection includes the individual archives of Oldenburg and van Bruggen, including substantial materials from Oldenburg’s early career in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the joint archive covering large-scale public monuments that the couple developed collaboratively between 1976 and 2009.
“The Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen archives are among the most significant and visually rich archives ever to be acquired by the Getty Research Institute,” said Mary Miller, director of the Getty Research Institute. “Oldenburg kept meticulous and thorough records of his dynamic activity throughout his six-decade career, including an uninterrupted set of diaries. Because of this, and of his and van Bruggen’s broad range of high-level cultural production, these records will expand rich narratives around contemporary art. We are so honored to care for this monumental legacy. I’m thrilled.”
Oldenburg’s individual archive covers every period of his career, from youth to present, and includes more than 2,000 sketches and collages, 450 diaries and notebooks, and extensive collections of correspondence, photography, ephemera, and audiovisual materials, as well as plans and templates related to projects throughout his career, including a remarkable array of unpublished materials from his extraordinarily innovative activity in the 1960s.
Van Bruggen was trained as an art historian at the Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen, and she worked as Assistant Curator for Painting and Sculpture at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam from 1967-71. She then taught art history at the Enschede Academy of Visual Arts. Throughout her artistic partnership with Oldenburg, van Bruggen also continued her independent work as a curator and art historian, serving on the curatorial team for Documenta 7 in 1982, and writing monographs on John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman, Hanne Darboven, and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao—projects which are documented in her individual archive.
Over the course of their more than three-decade-long collaboration, van Bruggen and Oldenburg designed and produced more than three dozen large-scale monuments in a variety of sites ranging from civic centers and museums to public parks. The Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen Archive contains extensive planning and logistical materials, correspondence, research, ephemera, and photographic and audiovisual documentation of these projects. Each commission entailed a lengthy process in which the artists would research the history of the site and broader context as well as the structural contingencies of a location before working out an idea and methods for construction. The exaggerated proportions of their monumental icons—billiard balls, a flashlight, shuttlecocks, a broom and dustpan, a torn notebook, and tumbling tacks among many others—heighten their inherent symbolism and particular resonances with their sites of installation. Transforming the built environments in which they are placed, Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s monuments of vernacular objects stand out in the discourse of postmodernism in architecture.
Image on top: Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg with Spoonbridge and Cherry, Model (1987), in their New York studio, 1987. Photo credit: © Jan Staller, Copyright 1987 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
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