Green Gallery, New York (Store List #17) (acquired directly from the artist)
Michael D. Abrams Collection, London
Christie's, New York, November 10, 1999, Lot 661
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale
Though Claes Oldenburg never used a model after 1959, the human body occupied much of the artist’s work throughout the 1960s. During this time, Oldenburg struggled with the differentiation between figure and object. The artist believed that his art objects should simulate, but never imitate, the figures upon which they were based. Accordingly, the appearance of the ray-guns in the early 1960s was an opportunity to overcome this crux. For Oldenburg, these fantastical renditions of real firearms represented ideal models of masculine virility. As such, Oldenburg’s ray-guns can be symbolically identified with the human body, the artist himself, and his artistic philosophy.
Six Store Ray Guns was arguably created for The Store, a early and innovative 1961 exhibition at the Ray Gun Manufacturing Co. Here, the artist famously recreated a pseudo-storefront, selling his various works. As Ellen J. Johnson noted, “Oldenburg’s Store was about art and about fact and fantasy, ambiguity, eroticism, and materialism. It was about idealism and freedom, mobility and change, and about life and death in life. The Store was about almost as many things as there were people who saw it and objects in it, objects whose intense existence is imbued with the plastic life which Oldenburg gave to them, and with the life of the human beings whose needs, desires and emotions they signify and educe…” (Ellen H. Johnson, Claes Oldenburg, Baltimore, 1971, p.19).
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