Screw Arch

Screwarch (1982), foto Pieter Vandermeer

Arch Screw bridge model 1980-81, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Maquette design Wilemsbridge 1980-81, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Arch Screw bridge model 1980-81, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Maquette design Wilemsbridge 1980-81, Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Museum garden Boijmans, photography: Pieter Vandermeer

Museum garden Boijmans, photography: Pieter Vandermeer

 

 

The Artwork

Claes Oldenburg’s Screw Arch is in fact a design for a bridge. The idea for the bridge came about during the plans for a new Willemsbrug over the River Maas in Rotterdam. In 1978 the director of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Wim Beeren, invited Oldenburg to make a model, an etching and a sculpture based on this idea. The Screw Arch project was completed in New York in 1982. In October of that year the colossal sculpture – produced in three sections – arrived by ship in Rotterdam together with seventeen working drawings, a model, three etchings and various photographs and other forms of documentation. The items were exhibited at the museum in the summer of 1983.

The Screw Arch consists of an arched aluminium screw approximately four metres high and seven metres long. The screw is arched as if it has collapsed under its own weight, but it remains recognisable as a screw. The tension of the arched form and its lifelike enlargement give the object an architectural yet playful quality.

It was initially the plan to exhibit the sculpture with its accompanying model and etchings for several months per year in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The sculpture’s scale is related to the dimensions of the galleries in the Bodon wing. But when the sculpture arrived in Rotterdam it seemed more suitable to give it a permanent place in the museum’s sculpture garden. Oldenburg chose a site above the water, on a bank between the ponds, to remind viewers that the sculpture was originally intended to be a bridge. The sculpture is mirrored in the water; the sculpture and its reflection form a circle.

Manufacturing
1982
Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg was born in Sweden in 1929 and grew up in the United States, where he trained to be an artist. In the 1960s he became one of the most important representatives of Pop Art. Initially Oldenburg was inspired by Jean Dubuffet and made collages and assemblages from materials such as cardboard and jute: imitations of objects that he found on the street. In keeping with the spirit of Pop Art, Oldenburg’s favourite subjects include tools and food. In 1961 he made an exhibition installation in the form of a shop, selling plaster copies of food and clothing. His works are playful and surprising, yet critical. They also question the nature of art itself.

From 1962 his objects increased in size and took on an alienating quality through their use

of scale and unusual materials. He made a wooden replica of a saw, and textile and foam rubber sculptures of electric plugs. He emphasised the qualities of these banal objects precisely by denying them.

From 1965 Oldenburg designed colossal monuments, comprising enormously enlarged banal objects to be sited in existing locations. He depicted these fantasies in collages and drawings; their perspective creates an overwhelming effect. Several of these projects were realised in the 1970s and 1980s. The demands of making public sculptures on such a grand scale led the artist to employ more durable materials, but the subjects remained banal. A trowel, a washing peg, and a screw: these are everyday objects realised on a heroic scale.