Claes Oldenburg and Public Sculpture in Berlin


Pictured above is a public sculpture by located at Claes Oldenburg and Coesje van Bruggens Bethlehemkirch-Platz, Mauerstrasse, Berlin. I think this is possibly the worst piece of public sculpture I have every seen. It's definitely the worst I've seen by an artist who has done work that I like.

I admire much of Oldenburg's early work particularly the "ghost versions" of his soft sculptures two of which are pictured below.



For me he has always been the most interesting of the artist's associated with Pop Art. He has always shown an insightful and original approach to the development of scuptural forms and his early work has a viscerality and suggestive power absent in the vacuous work of many of his contemporaries such as Roy Lichtenstein.

Oldenburg has been making these large public works with his partner Coosje van Bruggen. With some of the large scale projects they have experimented and produced some genuinely interesting pieces such as Bat Column (1977) and Bottle of Notes (1993). Both are pictured below.



However more often than not their public sculptures are formulaic, tacky, enlarged objects plonked down on a street, park or building. These works are as vacuous as the worst examples of pop art and at there worst are ugly and seem out of place. Below is a sculpture called Dropped Cone designed to look as though it has fallen from the sky!



I have seen two Richard Serran sculptures at the Kulturforum. There is a slanted block dedicated to Charlie Chaplin at the Neunational Gallerie and the piece pictured above is outside the Philharmonic. Unfortunately this piece has been vandalised  - there is some graffiti on the inside and numerous spots where it can clearly be seen that graffiti has been removed. I'm a big fan of Serra but the vandalism of his public works seems to be a big issue. Below is a quote from the NY Times about the public's response to a Serra sculpture in Paris.

“Clara-Clara” is back in the Tuileries, at least until November. But much to Mr. Serra’s chagrin, those who visit it, on dusty ground, have decided in a kind of collective fancy to put their footprints on the steel.

The soles of sneakers and athletic shoes may have their own formal design, but the prints look tacky on the orangey patina of the steel. As much as one may admire the dexterity of those who have put their footprints high up on the sculpture, Mr. Serra is not pleased at the way these particular viewers have chosen to “implicate” themselves and “apprehend the space and the piece.”


I am also a fan of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin (above) which consists of 2,700 concrete slabs and was designed by Peter Eisenman.

Update: I've just read recently that Serra was involved in the conception of the Holocaust Memorial but quit the project as he felt there were too many compromises being made - there was a reduction in the number of slabs from 4,100 to 2,750 and they were forced to place trees around the edges.