Cash Register, 1961
Muslin soaked in plaster over wire frame, painted with enamel
25 x 21 x 34 inches
Collection of Gordon Locksley and George T. Shea
Claes Oldenburg's early work explored two main themes: the vibrancy of New York City street life, and the burgeoning of consumer products in postwar America. These themes came together in his 1961 environment The Store, which he installed in a vacant shop on Manhattan's Lower East Side. There he produced, exhibited, and sold his art: replicas of common merchandise such as shoes, lingerie, and slices of pie. Cartoonish, crudely painted, and often grotesquely oversized, the sculptures were nevertheless treated like real merchandise: when one was sold, its spot on the shelf was filled with another like it. The Store purposely confused the lines between art and life, gallery and store, artist and salesman.
No store is complete without a cash register. This one, with its splashed and dripped paint job, also makes humorous reference to Abstract Expressionism, the most commercially successful movement of the day—until the emergence of Pop Art.