About photobooks – old and new.
Title: Claes Oldenburg’s Store Days
Author: Claes Oldenburg and Emmett Williams; photographs by Robert R. McElroy
Published in 1967 by Something Else Press, Inc.;
Hardcover, 4to, with photographically illustrated dust jacket, 152 pp.
“Claes Oldenburg’s Store Days” documents the most significant art intervention of the early 60s in New York.
In the winter of 1961, Oldenburg opened a storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to work and sell his art during Christmas. Casual customers could interact and purchase art directly from Oldenburg, who was acting both as the artist and art dealer – advertising his own art, distributing business cards (see picture) and designing promotional posters.
Originally, The Store was meant for Oldenburg to sell his sculptures made of painted plaster – pies, burgers, and other comestibles and garments, representations of mass consumption goods. But soon after the Winter of 1961, as documented in this book, The Store evolved and was converted to the Ray Gun Theater, hosting different art events – performances, happenings, theoretical discussions, etc. – which were quite influential in NY art’s world.
Oldenburg’s Store can be considered the most significant Pop Art intervention in NY at a pivotal moment in art history. It broke a number of conventional practices by treating art as a commodity, transforming the artist into an art dealer, and democratizing access to art away from the elitist world of art galleries.
“Claes Oldenburg’s Store Days” was published just a few years after the beginning of The Store and included the full involvement of Oldenburg in the preparation of the book. The selection of texts, graphic materials, and a significant number of photographs included in this book give a vivid idea of the events taking place at that time at The Store.
The book comes with Odenburg’s business card inserted in a small envelope glued on the first page, like the ones he distributed at The Store.