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Collections> Browse > Spoonbridge and Cherry

garden view in summer
Courtesy Walker Art Center
garden view in summer Image Rights
Image Rights
garden view in summer
Courtesy Walker Art Center
© Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen


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Spoonbridge and Cherry
Claes and Coosje van Bruggen Oldenburg
overall 354 × 618 × 162 inches
aluminum, stainless steel, paint
On view at the Walker Art Center, MSG

Object Details

Accession Number
signed by both artists on a stainless steel plaque located on the end of the handle
Physical Description
A large spoon with a cherry suspended on the rim. Water exits the cherry from both ends of the black cherry stem. Sculpture weighs approximately 7000 lbs..
Lippincott, Inc., North Haven, CT, subcontractors; spoon: Merrifield-Roberts, Inc., Bristol, RI; cherry: Paul E. Luke, Inc., East Boothbay, Maine

artwork entry Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1998

Claes Oldenburg is best known for his ingenious, oversized renditions of ordinary objects, like the giant “soft” three-way plug and overturned bag of french fries in the Walker’s own collection. He and Coosje van Bruggen, his wife and collaborator, had already created a number of large-scale public sculptures, including the Batcolumn in Chicago, when they were asked to design a fountain-sculpture for the planned Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The spoon had appeared as a motif in a number of Oldenburg’s drawings and plans over the years, inspired by a novelty item (a spoon resting on a glob of fake chocolate) he had acquired in 1962. Eventually the utensil emerged—in humorously gigantic scale—as the theme of the Minneapolis project. Van Bruggen contributed the cherry as a playful reference to the Garden’s formal geometry, which reminded her of Versailles and the exaggerated dining etiquette Louis XIV imposed there. She also conceived the pond’s shape in the form of linden seed. (Linden trees are planted along the allées that stretch before the fountain.) The complex fabrication of the 5,800 pound spoon and 1,200 pound cherry was carried out at two shipbuilding yards in New England. The sculpture has become a beloved icon in the Garden, whether glaceed with snow in the Minnesota winters or gleaming in the warmer months, with water flowing over the surface of the cherry and a fine mist rising from its stem.

Jenkins, Janet, ed. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 1998, no. 33.

© 1998 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985-1988) Walker Art Center, 1998

Claes: “Very often I am sitting at dinner and I take out my notebook. I get very inspired when I eat, for some reason.”
Coosje: “One of the things that sculptors who work in an urban surrounding think of is scale, the object in comparison to the other things in the surroundings–buildings, the highway, the Cathedral, lantern posts, anything.”–Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

A highlight of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the monumental fountain-sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. While Oldenburg and van Bruggen, his wife and collaborator, have produced a number of large-scale sculptures of everyday objects, such as a flashlight in Las Vegas and a firehouse in Freiburg, Switzerland, Spoonbridge and Cherry is their first fountain sculpture. The giant spoon stretches 52 feet across a small pond shaped like a linden tree seed. A fine stream of water, just enough to make the aluminum cherry gleam, flows over the cherry from the base of the stem. A second stream of water sprays from the top of the stem over the cherry, down into the spoon and the pool below. In winter, snow and ice accumulate on the cherry and the bowl of the spoon, changing the sculpture’s character with the seasons. The colossal spoon and cherry required unusual facilities for their construction, and two New England ship-building firms were contracted to build the huge aluminum and steel forms.

Text for Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985-1988), from the curriculum guide The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A Garden for All Seasons, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center

object label photographic documentation and object file regarding commission of SPOONBRIDGE AND CHERRY Walker Art Center, 1998

In the early stages of planning the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen were asked to create a fountain-sculpture. What resulted is the Twin Cities’ most famous and most photographed landmark, SPOONBRIDGE AND CHERRY. The oversized sculpture was an enormous undertaking to install, and the Walker’s “Oldenburg/van Bruggen” paper files are beginning to rival the sculpture in weight! When it commissioned the work, the Walker made a promise to maintain one of the largest functional, contemporary outdoor sculptures ever known, and a separate endowment fund was established to fund the maintenance of the piece indefinitely.

The conservation of the cherished fountain has ranged from changing the water in the pond from well water to city water (because of the stains left by the mineral deposits on the bowl of the spoon) to investigating new chemical coatings to protect the cherry’s surface without losing its cherry-red color. Walker staff members have climbed the slippery spoon in the rain and snow to check for corrosion from a leak in the cherry stem, and the entire sculpture was repainted in 1995. The artists maintain a close relationship with the Walker and return to Minneapolis often to participate with the registrars in these unique conservation tasks. (These photographs show Oldenburg touching up the paint on the spoon).

Photographs of SPOONBRIDGE AND CHERRY are the most requested images of any in the Walker’s permanent collection, which explains why there is so much paperwork in the object file for this sculpture. Requests come from organizations as varied as businesses who want the image on the cover of their meeting calendars to travel magazines published on the other side of the globe. The Walker’s Registration Department is responsible for investigating each one to ensure that images of the piece are not used in a way that is disrespectful to the work or to the artists.

Label text for photographic documentation and object file regarding commission of SPOONBRIDGE AND CHERRY, Collection Walker Art Center Archives, from the exhibition Commission Possible: Walker Art Center, 1980-1998, Andersen Window Gallery, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, November 21, 1998-August 1, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center