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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.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Known for his oversize renditions of everyday objects, Claes Oldenburg has become synonymous with American Pop art. By increasing the scale of mundane items that usually play into themes of consumption, such as food products or household appliances, Oldenburg inflates the potential power of their presence and interrogates their significance, displacing their normative functions with witty, sometimes erotic interpretations. Modeling this giant sculpture after the three-way plug, a standard American design made of Bakelite plastic, Oldenburg has likened its enlarged form to a skull, a cannon, an anchor, a nut, Mickey Mouse, and even the church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Erica Battle, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 375.

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