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Getty Research Institute Acquires Archives of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen

Above: Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg with Spoonbridge and Cherry, Model, 1987, in their New
York studio, 1987. Photo: Jan Staller.
Above: Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg with Spoonbridge and Cherry, Model, 1987, in their New
York studio, 1987. Photo: Jan Staller.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—The Getty Research Institute (GRI) announced today it has acquired the complete archives of artist Claes Oldenburg and his collaborator and wife Coosje van Bruggen, a noted curator, artist, and art historian. The collection comprises substantial materials from every period of Oldenburg’s career, as well as extensive documentation of the  large-scale public monuments that the couple developed together 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 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.”

Oldenburg’s individual archive includes more than 2,000 sketches and collages, 450 diaries and notebooks, correspondence, photography, ephemera, audiovisual materials and plans and templates for various projects. Beginning in 1956 and continuing to the present, the diaries chronicle Oldenburg’s daily activities, including projects he worked on, people he met, what he read, social engagements, and reflections on his work and the work of his contemporaries.

“Claes Oldenburg is without a doubt one of the most significant artists of the 20th century and a figure whose influence has been felt across a surprisingly wide spectrum of artmaking,” said Glenn Phillips, curator and head of modern and contemporary collections at the Getty Research Institute. “Though he is most commonly associated with Pop art (a term he does not embrace), Oldenburg has influenced performance art, installation art, minimalism and postminimalism, and conceptual art.”  

Van Bruggen was trained as an art historian at the Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen. Over the years, she worked as assistant curator for painting and sculpture at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, taught art history at the Enschede Academy of Visual Arts, and served on the curatorial team for Documenta 7 in 1982. She also wrote monographs on John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman, Hanne Darboven, and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. With Oldenburg, she would design and produce more than three dozen large-scale monuments at sites such as civic centers, museums, and public parks across the globe.

Commenting on the artists’ joint projects, GRI deputy director Andrew Perchuk said: “The collaboration between Oldenburg and van Bruggen produced some of the most memorable sculptures of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. To acquire the records of their extraordinary partnership, as well as their individual archives, will provide foundational research material for generations to come.”

April 10, 2019