Art snobbery, not very distinguishable from the art of snobbery, is thought to be practiced by cruel, lonely people who wear black turtlenecks on hot summer days, and speak with a British accent while drinking French wines. And so it was, several decades ago, while art snobs were busily contemplating the meaning of certain works and the struggle between various forces leading up to the work, Claes Oldenburg redrew their landscape. In the world of art snobbery Oldenburg was ridiculed for his whimsical take on everyday objects.
But now the eight decades old, Sweden born artist has triumphed over his detractors, being hailed as a top, American pop artist. Currently the prestigious Whitney Museum is exhibiting some of his works. Oldenburg of the Walker Sculpture Garden’s Spoon Bridge and Cherry Fountain fame, made a name for himself creating over-sized, whimsical sculptures of ordinary objects such as clothespins, trowels and lipstick. Back in the day, art snobs and others had no idea what to make of the quirky items Oldenburg created. The thinking may have gone something like this: Could this be art? Would it stand up alongside the great French works? Should anyone be allowed to decide? Will it bring down the value of neighboring works of art?
Critics and snobs may have their take on the Whitney exhibit as well, but ultimately the best thing about Oldenburg’s works is that so many pieces are not in museums, but rather are scattered about the world in public spaces where all may view them. Set in parks and streets, on college campuses and on top of buildings, the pieces cause children and adults alike to point and stare and comment – Look mom, someone dropped a giant ice-cream cone on that building and it stuck.
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