In December 1961, Oldenburg rented a small storefront on East Second Street in New York and filled it with handmade, brightly painted objects that recalled the products—shirts, watches, sausages, slices of pie—available for purchase in stores throughout the neighborhood. This marked the beginning of a multiyear project collectively referred to as The Store. The second iteration took place at the Green Gallery on Fifty-Seventh Street, a commercial enterprise in the center of midtown, a few blocks from MoMA. Taking advantage of the larger square footage available to him, the artist exhibited three oversize soft sculptures sewn by his wife, Patty Mucha, and painted by Oldenburg himself: an ice-cream cone, a piece of cake, and a hamburger. Alongside these colossi, he included smaller plaster works, including Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything (Dual Hamburgers), made just slightly larger than their real-life counterparts. The dissonance created by extreme shifts in scale would occupy the artist for the remainder of his career.
Two Cheeseburgers is a testament to Oldenburg’s ingenuity as a sculptor and his penchant for infusing work with witty and occasionally dark humor. Placed side by side and piled high with toppings, each burger, ostensibly an object to be eaten, also resembles a mouth ready to take a bite. When MoMA’s founding director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., visited The Store, he purportedly purchased Two Cheeseburgers on the spot—an acquisition for the Museum’s collection.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)