Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1929. After living in New York City, Rye, New York, and Oslo, Norway, he moved to Chicago in 1936. Oldenburg attended Yale University from 1946 to 1950 and became an American citizen in 1953.
Commercial objects in his urban surroundings became the focus of his work, especially the city’s Lower East Side, Oldenburg established himself at the beginning of the 1960s with a series of installations and performances, among themThe Street (1960), The Store (1961), and Ray Gun Theater (1962), which contributed significantly to the emergence of American Pop art. During a stay in Los Angeles in 1963, he focused on subjects inspired by what he called The Home, including the installation Bedroom Ensemble (1963). He went on to create performances in Los Angeles (Autobodys, 1963), Chicago (Gayety, 1963), Washington, D.C. (Stars, 1963), New York (Washes and Moveyhouse, 1965), and Stockholm (Massage, 1966). In 1964, after showing sculptures based on European edibles in Paris, he returned to New York and, continuing to use ordinary, everyday objects as his means of expression, developed “soft” sculptures and fantastic proposals for buildings and civic monuments.
Claes Oldenburg has also received honorary degrees from Oberlin College, Ohio, in 1970; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, in 1979; Bard College, New York, in 1995; and Royal College of Art, London, in 1996, as well as the following awards: Brandeis University Sculpture Award, 1971; Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, 1972; Art Institute of Chicago, First Prize Sculpture Award, 72nd American Exhibition, 1976; Medal, American Institute of Architects, 1977; Wilhelm-Lehmbrück Prize for Sculpture, Duisburg, Germany, 1981; Wolf Foundation Prize in Visual Arts, Israel, 1989; Brandeis University Creative Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement,The Jack I. and Lillian Poses Medal for Sculpture, 1993; Rolf Schock Foundation Prize, Stockholm, Sweden, 1995; and the National Medal of Arts, Washington DC, 2000. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters since 1975 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1978.