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  1. 69403.jpg 1/2
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Sweden born 1929

  • Movements: United States of America from 1930

Miniature soft drum set 1969

  • a multiple consisting of a canvas bass drum, big and small tom drums, a pair of cymbals, a hi sock, a foot pedal, a bell and woodblock and a set of drumsticks, all sitting on a wooden bandstand base
prints, multiple, canvas, stencil, spraypainting
Technique: screenprinted and spraypainted canvas, rope, wood, plastic button and metal screws on a screenprinted paper on wood base, in a two-colour screenprinted wooden box
Impression: 23/200
Edition: no.23 from an edition of 200 plus 18 artist's proofs (catalogue raisonne, in consultation with Marian Goodman, suggests 26 artist's proofs)
Publisher: Multiples Inc., New York
Primary Insc: signed on largest drum (bass), black marker pen "CO"
variable 31.0 h x 51.0 w x 35.8 d cm
Cat Raisonné: Axsom and Platzker, Printed stuff, 1997, cat. 61
Purchased 1979
Accession No: NGA 80.746.A-N
© Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen


  • In Miniature soft drum set the essential property of a drum set―its ability to beat out a noise―has been removed. We are left instead with an unstructured mass of canvas. With its rigidity gone, the drum set seems organic and vulnerable. The yielding quality of the sculpture’s material ensures it is never entirely static: subject to the forces of time and change, it eschews strict form and takes on a less familiar identity.

    In his work, Claes Oldenburg, a seminal figure in the Pop Art movement and a leading proponent of soft sculpture, wanted ‘to create an independent object which has its existence in a world outside both the real world as we know it and the world of art. It’s an independent thing which has its own power, just to sit there and remain something of a mystery.’[1]

    In 1967 Oldenburg decided to make a large, soft drum set inspired by the cylindrical architecture of the Guggenheim Museum[2]. Two years later, the small canvas model that he created as a prototype for Giant soft drum set became the basis for the editioned Miniature soft drum set. Presented in a wooden box inside a soft, opaque vinyl bag, and accompanied by a set of six suggested positions for display, the work is a typical example of Oldenburg’s experiments with collapsed form.

    Emilie Owens
    Administrative Assistant
    International Art
    National Gallery of Australia, Canberra


    [1]The artist, in 1971, quoted in Claes Oldenburg, Claes Oldenburg: an anthology, Guggenheim & National Gallery of Art, New York and Washington, 1995, p 12

    [2] Giant soft drum set was created for the1967 International Exhibition of Sculpture, held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: National Gallery of Australia exhibition SoftSculpture (reference )