Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store

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Claes Oldenburg, Mouse Museum. 1965-1977

Wood and corrugated aluminum, Plexiglas display cases with 385 objects, sound
museum moderner kunst stfitung ludwig wien
On loan from the Austrian Ludwig Foundation since 1981

GLENN LOWRY: The Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing are presented in conjunction with Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store, an exhibition that examines the early years of Oldenburg’s extraordinary career. The rest of the exhibition is located on the sixth floor of the Museum.

Curator, Ann Temkin.

ANN TEMKIN: During the course of his life, Oldenburg has had a passion for collecting little items. After a while, he began to sort and categorize them, as if they were precious objects in a museum. He presented at the exhibition Documenta 5 in 1972, in Germany, the Mouse Museum, which was a structure filled with shelves into which visitors could go and observe the very painstakingly arranged dozens and dozens of little ordinary American cheap knickknacks. Along with the found things, there are also little studio-made objects that Oldenburg decided were qualified to join the Mouse Museum.

CLAES OLDENBURG: They were things somewhere between chance objects and artworks. Many of them did serve as starting points for artworks.

GLENN LOWRY: The Museum is designed as a giant mouse head with an entrance through the nose. The mouse is a favorite motif of Oldenburg’s. From the 1960s on, his “geometric mouse” appears throughout his work.

CLAES OLDENBURG: It comes in many sizes, all the same form. It's a kind of antidote to Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse is soft and cuddly and all curves. Whereas the ‘Geometric Mouse’ doesn't have any curves. It has rather sleepy eyes with tears attached to them. It’s intended to be a symbol more of mental action than Mickey Mouse, which is more about fun.

GLENN LOWRY: Like many museums, the Mouse Museum soon needed to expand. In 1977, Oldenburg added the Ray Gun Wing. This housed his collection of objects shaped in right angles, a form that he dubbed the “ray gun.”

CLAES OLDENBURG: If you spell Ray Gun backwards, it's ‘Nugyar,’ which is very close to ‘New York.’ New York, Nugyar.