Trowel I
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Arty Fact

More about Trowel I

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This Trowel is about 38 feet tall.

Must be for one HUGE project - a giant-sized brick-laying party, or something. Claes Oldenburg is known for his gigantic sculptures of mundane objects, but with this work he has really outdone himself - rendering the trees and landscape around the Kroller-Muller Museum into a play-set by comparison.

Oldenburg originally made this sculpture for the exhibition Sonsbeek ’71. Sonsbeek buiten de perken in Arnhem, a show that focused on Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Land Art, and Performance Art, all on the theme of “spatial relations.” For Oldenburg, an artist who is known for his whimsical re-sizing  of everyday objects, this show was a perfect fit. However, his proposed sculpture - a humongous trowel - was going to cost a fortune to create. That’s where the Kroller-Muller swooped in, offering to help cover costs if they could add the object to their collection following the exhibition. Pretty good deal, huh?

Thus, Trowel came into being, as a giant silver object. Silver? Yep. But it’s blue. Yep. You see, metal rusts and paint chips when exposed to the elements, so after a few years the silvery piece was worn and needed repairing. A silver-repaint in 1972 was worn down again by 1975, so in that year Oldenburg selected a blue paint for the object’s re-coating, and it has remained blue (with a few alterations in shade) ever since.

Why blue? Well, Oldenburg was clearly not one for subtlety, and he felt that a giant blue tool would stand out great against the rolling landscape of the Netherlands. He was right! Even after the work was re-made in 1976, it has remained an iconic piece of the museum-going experience, marking the entryway to the grounds. This front-and-center location was exactly where Oldenburg wanted it. The piece was briefly moved to the sculpture garden around 2000, but is (thankfully) now back in its rightful home.

In the most recent iteration of repainting, the sculpture was returned to the original shade of blue that Oldenburg intended - a project that took conservators TONS of research to figure out after all of the layers of repainting and continuous damage weather had done to the work. With its great location and the perfect color, I’m sure the piece makes the now-91-year-old artist proud.



  1. De Graaf, Eline. “HOW THE SILVER TROWEL BECAME BLUE.” Kroller-Muller Blog, published May 2016, accessed 4 Feb 2020,
  2. “Sonsbeek 1971.” accessed 4 Feb 2020,
  3. “Trowel.” Merriam-Webster online, accessed 4 february 2020.
  4. “Trowel, 1971.” Kroller-Muller Museum, accessed 4 February 2020,