Art History Happy Hour- Santa Claes Oldenburg Fashioned

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The holidays are here!  Whether you celebrate this time in church, temple, around a familial hearth or the neighborhood bar, we can all agree it’s a time to come together and share the love. An excellent way to get into the holiday spirit is by sharing holiday spirits with friends and family and so my gift to you is yet another art inspired cocktail, this time with a Christmas twist.


Enough cocktails and we’ll all be doing this song and dance.

Since I failed miserably at sharing the many November themed art drinks in my head (“many” is to be understood as several shots of Wild Turkey) I’m starting this month off big. Big because this drink is strong, sweet and its flavors evoke both the big daddy of Christmas, Santa, and the father of big pop art, Claes Oldenburg.

I give you the Santa Claes Oldenburg-Fashioned.



1 tsp gingerbread simple syrup*

2 oz Bourbon

Splash of Club Soda

1 splash Angos bitters

Amaretto cherries for garnish

Combine gingerbread syrup, bourbon, club soda and bitters into mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into old fashioned glass and garnish with cherry. Bonus points if your cherry garnish is balanced on a spoon.

*Make your own gingerbread simple syrup by following this recipe or check your local Starbucks.

Known for his HUGE outdoor sculptures of food, household supplies, and more food, Oldenburg is a Swedish artist who got his big break in 1960s New York. His whimsical sculptures of the mundane seem innocuous enough now but were originally sources of great controversy. Apparently people in the 60s were still trying to swallow the concept of the everyday as high-art…  maybe if Oldenburg had made the spoon smaller it would have been easier for them.


View Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Garden at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis

One such controversial incident came with the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) purchase of the sculpture Floor Burger in 1967. The piece was bought from the Sidney Janis Gallery for $2,000,  sparking outrage from the public who just didn’t get it, man.


Image via WikiArt

In a press release the then-director, William J. Withrow, made it clear that the piece was designated to that weird section of the museum known as “contemporary art” and that no tax dollars were spent on the acquisition. The press statement wasn’t enough for the art students of Central Technical School who protested the piece by creating a 9 foot tall bottle of ketchup and parading in front of the AGO.


Image via Austin & Ally Wiki

The students attempted to donate the giant ketchup bottle to the museum to accompany its burger friend. The saucy demonstration suggested that while the students may not have fully grasped pop-art’s philosophy they certainly understood the genre’s humor. It was the museum who took the tongue-in-cheek gesture and replaced it with a foot-in-mouth response. Not only did they reject the offered art piece but they cited their reason as it not being important or original. I guess the museum didn’t bother to read Oldenburg’s pop-art manifesto I Am For… in which he writes, “I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero.”


Image via AGO: Art Matters Blog

In the same manifesto Oldenburg also stated, “I am for the art of bar-babble, tooth-picking, beer-drinking, egg-salting, in-sulting. I am for the art of falling off a barstool.” Cheers to that!


Image via Giphy

By: Sarah

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Sarah Oesterling


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