Claes Oldenburg

The Store


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Claes Oldenburg born 1929
Letterpress print on card
Support: 718 × 560 mm
Transferred from Tate Archive Poster Collection 2015


The Store 1961 is a letterpress textual print in black and red printed capital letters in a variety of fonts. The print was ostensibly produced to advertise Oldenburg’s installation The Store 1961, which consisted of individual sculptures of everyday consumer goods such as foodstuffs and hardware – all of which were for sale during the 1961 show – that were made mostly of enamel-painted plaster constructed on wire armatures (one example is Counter and Plates with Potato and Ham 1961, Tate T01239). The text of the print reads: ‘Ray-Gun Mfg. Co. / Diciembre 1 al 31 / The / Store / By / Claes Oldenburg / 107 E. 2nd St. / Hours: Fri. Sat. Sun. 1 to 6pm / And by appointment / In cooperation with / The Green Gallery’. The poster purports to advertise the installation while also being a part of it. It was displayed pinned up in The Store, signalling Oldenburg’s vision of the new reality evoked by his work as well as the print’s connection with vernacular design language.

The poster was conceived as a work in its own right rather than as pure publicity material, and was included in the publication Oldenburg: Works in Edition (1971) and again in Printed Stuff: Prints, Posters, and Ephemera by Claes Oldenburg: A Catalogue Raisonné 1958–1996 (1997). A sculptor who moves between performance and graphic art, Oldenburg treats his work as a totality in which key themes and motifs interweave in a variety of media. Taken as a whole, his posters and graphic works represent a number of themes that have structured his practice throughout his career (see, for example, System of Iconography – Plug, Mouse, Good Humor, Lipstick, Switches 1970–1, Tate P07096). These motifs range across media, from performance and sculpture to the graphic arts, and include a shifting sense of scale, size and location, as well as exchanging hard for soft and organic for machine-made materials. Oldenburg sees this activity not as a series of discrete and isolated pursuits, but as a totality through which he engages with and represents the reality that he encounters every day. As the historian Martin Friedman explained in 1975:

Oldenburg’s art is a totality. The themes, each manifested in different media, are intimately related. Detailed drawings of objects, hastily scrawled notes, fragments of poetry, cardboard models, muslin and vinyl soft sculptures, and the recent large industrially fabricated steel pieces are elements of a total view. His ‘performance pieces’ that continued into the mid-1960s and combined people, objects and environments are essential to this view.
(Friedman in Oldenburg: Six Themes, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 1975, p.9.)

The Store – and the larger body of graphic works of which it is an example – represents one piece within a constantly evolving oeuvre; a ‘total’ work that responds, in multiple media, to the variety and ephemerality of the everyday, material world.

Further reading
Claes Oldenburg: Works in Edition, exhibition catalogue, Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles 1971.
Richard H. Axsom and David Platzker, Printed Stuff: Prints, Posters, and Ephemera by Claes Oldenburg: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York 1997.

Andrew Wilson
November 2014

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