Re-thinking the cleaning of Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Cake (Giant Piece Of Cake)

Margo Delidow and Cynthia Albertson

Abstract

In 1962 Claes Oldenburg created a body of work for his first one-man show at the Green Gallery, New York. Oldenburg and wife Patti Mucha used a portable sewing machine, heavy weight canvas, cardboard boxes, foam, and acrylic paint to create his first giant soft sculptures in the shape of a hamburger, an ice-cream cone and a giant piece of cake. Floor Cake (Giant Piece of Cake) entered the collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1975 and has been very heavily exhibited. The object has 15 square feet of painted cotton canvas, three square feet of which are intended to rest directly on the floor. The historical maintenance of this work, while on view, was to mechanically readjust the interior stuffing by fluffing the layers. The results of life in a busy museum environment have left Floor Cake with cracking and paint loss, abrasions, tears and punctures, and extensive surface soiling. With two previous treatments already on record, conservators at the Museum of Modern Art were confronted with the re-treatment of forty-seven year old, 5 x 9 ft. Floor Cake (Giant Piece of Cake). This paper investigates the effects of past treatment and explores the practical application of surface cleaning acrylic paint with Oldenburg’s Floor Cake as a case study.

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