Claes & Coosje
Presented at Pace Gallery, “Claes & Coosje: A Duet” chronicles the interchange between artists and couple Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The show’s curator is their daughter, Maartje Oldenburg. The overall thrust of the exhibition contends that van Bruggen’s role in the duo has been historically underplayed. Wall texts largely quote van Bruggen, who was a curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam when the two met in 1971, beginning a romantic relationship that would also become a collaborative one by the 1980s.
Among these two dozen works on view are versions of several iconic pieces. These include Soft Shuttlecock, Study (1994), which hung at the center of the Guggenheim’s spiral for the artists’ joint retrospective at the museum in 1995; also presented are drawings, plans, and props related to Il Corso del Coltello (The Course of the Knife) (1984), a Venice-based site-specific performance created with art historian Germano Celant and architect Frank Gehry.
The monumental painted aluminum sculpture Dropped Bouquet (2021) [pictured], van Bruggen and Oldenburg’s final collaborative work, having been realized only this year, also makes its debut here. It is a fitting monument to their relationship—flowers being a motif not only in their work but also in their romance: Oldenberg movingly made van Bruggen 31 paper flowers shortly before her death in 2009, one for each year of their marriage.
Oldenburg/van Bruggen, Dropped Bouquet, 2021. Painted aluminum, 12 feet 3 inches × 9 feet 3 inches × 14 feet 10 inches. © 2021 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Photography: Tom Powel Imaging.