Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Since meeting in 1970, Claes Oldenburg and his wife, Coosje van Bruggen, a writer and curator, collaborated on more than 25 large-scale projects. Soft Shuttlecock was created specifically by the artists for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum in celebration of Oldenburg's 1995 retrospective. While planning the exhibition, Oldenburg and van Bruggen were also developing a project for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, in which four 18-foot-high shuttlecocks in plastic and aluminum are situated in the grass on either side of the museum, as if the building were a badminton net and the “birdies” fell during play. For the Guggenheim installation, the artists playfully engaged the same object, this time rendering it in more pliant materials.
Early preparatory drawings show the shuttlecock transformed into a costume for a tightrope walker to wear while crossing the museum's rotunda. The final result was no less a daring interaction with the space. Oldenburg and van Bruggen draped the flaccid feathers of the shuttlecock over several ramps and suspended others from the skylight above with cables. Like the Nelson-Atkins installation, Soft Shuttlecock humorously deflates the imposing structure of the building by diminishing its relative scale, while underscoring the museum's institutional role as a site not only for culture and education but also for recreation and entertainment.