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Image Rights
Courtesy Walker Art Center
© Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen


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Upside Down City
overall installed 118 × 60 × 60 inches
muslin, latex and spray enamel, newspaper, wood, clothespins, wire hangers
Not on view

Object Details

Accession Number
Physical Description
14 stufffed muslin buildings hang from rack, attached with clothespins and wire hangers
Credit Line
Purchased with the aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and Art Center Acquisition Fund, 1979

object label Claes Oldenburg, Upside Down City (1962) Walker Art Center, 2009

Upside Down City is a prop, a painting, a relic, and a sculpture. It is among the first of Claes Oldenburg’s famous “soft sculptures” in which he took everyday objects such as hamburgers or electric plugs and transformed their scale, texture, and mood. Seeking to reimagine the subject of art, Oldenburg embraced the “poetry of everywhere” and infamously announced in a 1961 manifesto, “I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself … that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.”

In 1962, Oldenburg organized a series of events in New York City’s East Village in a rented store he called the Ray Gun Manufacturing Co. The performances were not narrative but associative, and sometimes deliberately provoked the discomfort of the tightly packed audience standing amid the action. Playfully alluding to the upcoming 1964 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Oldenburg’s final event, World’s Fair II, was deliberately lowbrow, ending with the performers hanging Upside Down City from the ceiling, set to the tune of a slowed-down recording of a Scottish bagpipe march.

Walker Art Center. Extended label for Claes Oldenburg, Upside Down City, from the exhibition Event Horizon, November 21, 2009 to August 26, 2012.

Copyright 2009 Walker Art Center