Claes Oldenburg was born in 1929 in Stockholm, Sweden. The son of a Swedish Consul General, he came to Chicago in 1936. After finishing his studies at Yale University, New Haven, he started to work as a reporter. In 1952 he attended a course at the Chicago Art Institute, published drawings in several magazines and began to paint pictures that were influenced by Abstract Expressionism.
In 1956 he moved to New York where he met Jim Dine. In 1958 he met Alan Kaprow and took part in his Happenings. In 1958-59 he arranged his first sculptural, Neo-Dadaist assemblages of plaster and garbage soaked in striking colors. These led to his environments (The Street, The Store etc.). He also started at this time to make replicas of foods like hamburgers, ice-cream and cakes, which prepared the ground for his soft sculptures. In 1964 and 1968 he was represented at the Venice Biennale, and in 1968 and 1972 at the documenta”4″ and documenta “5”, Kassel.
In 1972 he arranged his Mouse Museum. A comprehensive retrospective of his projects, documents and sketches was shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1969. The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, gave him a retrospective in 1970. From 1976 he collaborated on large-scale projects with Coosje van Bruggen, whom he married in 1977. He was represented at the documenta “6”, 1977, and documenta “7”, 1982, at Kassel. The Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and the Kunsthalle Tübingen gave him a retrospective of his drawings in 1977. His environment Mouse Museum / Ray Gun Wing was arranged in 1979 at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
In 1983 he made his large sculpture of a toothbrush for the Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld. In 1984 he made his proposals for the large project The Course of the Knife for Venice, which was then shown in collaboration with the architect Frank Gehry at the Campo dell’Arsenale, accompanied by performances which he took part in himself. He then went on to collaborate with Gehry on other projects that related to architecture in Boston and Los Angeles. In 1989 the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, organized the exhibition “Claes Oldenburg -Coosje van Bruggen, A Bottle of Notes and Some Voyages.”