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Giant Three-Way Plug (Cube Tap)

Claes Oldenburg, American (born Sweden), born 1929

Made in United States, North and Central America


Cor-Ten steel, bronze

9 feet 9 inches × 6 feet 6 inches × 58 inches (297.2 × 198.1 × 147.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Contemporary Art

* Museum Grounds, exterior (d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David N. Pincus in memory of Anne d'Harnoncourt, 2010

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Claes Oldenburg gained notoriety in the early 1960s when he opened “The Store” in New York, where he blurred the distinction between art and commerce by selling painted replicas of everyday items. Customers found hamburgers and dresses fabricated in plaster and paint-spattered in a parody of Abstract Expressionism. The artist subsequently inflated the scale of domestic appliances, furniture, and other consumer products pointing to the fetishistic potential of commonplace objects.

The three-way electrical plug first appeared in Oldenburg's work in 1965, in a charcoal drawing that made this familiar household object look like a dripping popsicle. Oldenburg constructed a large three-dimensional cardboard plug in the same year and soon began further material exploration with versions in bronze, steel, canvas, and mahogany. In 1970, Oldenburg’s plug achieved monumental stature in this Cor-Ten steel and bronze version from an edition of three. Its magnified scale lends the original model for the three-way plug, a standard American design made of Bakelite, a formal affinity with architecture.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.