Cobblestone-Sized Fire Plug Souvenir — Chicago August 1968

Claes Oldenburg, Fire Plug Souvenir — Chicago August 1968, 1968, 8 1/4 in. tall, acrylic on plaster, ed. 100, this one, 27/100, is Lot 44 at Hindman on 12 Sept 2023, via liveauctioneers

Adding Fire Plug Souvenir — Chicago August 1968 to my list of Oldenburg multiples I’ve surely seen but never noticed before. I’ve even written about the show this was created for, which Oldenburg and Richard Feigen organized to raise money for the ACLU, who was defending protestors attacked by police during the Democratic National Convention. Those protestors included Oldenburg himself; he was beaten and kicked, but not charged with anything.

Anyway, in his 1991 multiples exhibition catalogue, Oldenburg said his idea was to make a souvenir like you’d pick up at the airport. The scale he wanted was cobblestone-size, though the plan to throw one through the window of the gallery did not happen. Maybe we should say it hasn’t happened yet. If you buy this busty, dusty little tchotchke of the revolution next month, capitalism says you can throw it wherever you want.

[update: if my performative cluenessness is what it takes to learn about writing like “Fireplug, Flower, Baboon: The Democratic Thing in Late 1960s Chicago” [pdf], Rachel Zorach’s 2011 essay on Oldenburg, Picasso, conceptual art, and the political context of Vietnam War-era Chicago, then so be it. Thanks, Andrew!]