The Mouse Museum and The Ray Gun Wing by Claes Oldenburg was an exhibition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 1977. It traveled for almost a year before its closing show at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1978. “Distinctly different from traditional exhibitions,” wrote Judith Russi Kirshner in the small, handsome catalog, “the Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing are ‘notebooks’ filled with ordinary objects and three-dimensional sketches, including fragments of art processes and objects which inspired other works.”
The museum opened in 1965, following on the heels of Oldenburg’s The Store, in a loft at 14th Street and First Avenue, only blocks where I now sit with my own found commercial objects. The objects placed somewhat randomly on the nondescript wooden shelves are “fragments of man-made, artificial (“city”) nature (found on the streets, bought in stores, the residue of performances, souvenirs of travel, gifts, etc., etc.”
This may be the prototype of the “found art” movement influenced by Duchamp’s “Readymades,” which are so popular today. The Mouse Museum was also the beginning of a “museum of popular objects,” a wonder cabinet of everyday extraordinary things. The letterhead with the “Geometric Mouse” from 1966 reveals Oldenburg brand plan.” The collection moved around and after a showing at the Neue Galerie in Kassel, West Germany it returned to Oldenburg’s Broome Street, NYC studio and re-shelved.
Items in the Mouse Museum included in special categories as follows: landscape, human beings, food, body parts, clothing, makeup and adornment, tools: simple to \complex, Animals, Buildings, Monuments and Souvenirs, Money Containers and Practical Systems, Studio Remnants and Fragments. Some are “altered objects,” altered by the artist, other are “studio objects,” created by the artist. (Photos by Balthasar Burkard)
This past Summer, MoMA reprised the Museum read more here.
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About Steven HellerSteven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →