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Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Shuttlecocks” was a sensation when it debuted in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1994. 

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Shuttlecocks” was a sensation when it debuted in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1994. 

Photographer: Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives

The Artists Who Mastered the Urban Spectacle

The late sculptor Claes Oldenburg, with his partner Coosje van Bruggen, created giant pop art installations that rewrote the rules about art in public spaces. 

By the time the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, tapped Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen for a massive sculpture garden commission in the 1990s, the schtick that the two artists had established in other cities was already well known.

In Minneapolis, a spoon as long as two London buses balancing a 1,200-pound maraschino cherry at its end had been a fixture for a few years. The 45-foot tall clothespin that the artists erected across the street from City Hall in Philadelphia, taller than a telephone pole and made from Cor-Ten and stainless steel, was now a weather-worn downtown icon that had been around for nearly two decades. The artists’ first oversized novelty monument — a rose-blush lipstick tube, tall as a giraffe, mounted on a base with caterpillar tank treads — had tickled students at Yale University for 25 years.