1942 – 2009
Coosje van Bruggen was an art historian, author, and curator whose professional partnership with her husband Claes Oldenburg turned ordinary objects into startling monuments around the world. Their collaborations placed giant trowels, shuttlecocks, bowling pins, and typewriter erasers in parklands, civic squares, and museum grounds in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
Born and educated in the Netherlands, Van Brugge received a master’s degree in art history from the University of Groningen. From 1967 to 1971 she worked in the curatorial department of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Enschede. In 1996-97 she was the senior critic in the Department of Sculpture at Yale University School of Art.
Van Bruggen first collaborated with Oldenburg in 1976 when she helped him install his 41-foot “Trowel 1” at Sonsbeek 71. It was rebuilt and relocated on the grounds of the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands. In 1978, van Bruggen moved to New York where she and Oldenburg worked to reach a wider audience. The first piece they created as a team was “Flashlight” 1981, a huge outdoor sculpture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Their final joint work was “Tumbling Tacks,” designed for the former site of a Norwegian paper mill that had been transformed into a park north of Oslo.
Together they created large-scale, site-specific works in urban settings as well as smaller-scale park and garden sculptures and indoor installations. Their collaborative work has been the subject of approximately 40 exhibitions, including large surveys at MOCA, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the Hayward and Serpentine galleries in London.