What is it?
Mold of a revolutionary car design over a lithograph.
In a nutshell?
The pseudo-organic shell of Oldenburg's Profile Airflow honors a pioneering design classic, the Chrysler Airflow. Oldenburg's multiple comments on the drives of consumerism and the nature of human progress.
What's the story?
Fascinated by the concept of mass production, Oldenburg delighted in using the multiple to explore the irony of reproducing what was already a mass-produced object. Profile Airflow also documents the artist's interest in technology—not only as a subject, but also as a means to produce his artwork.
Why the Chrysler Airflow?
Cars are the machines closest to man—they are an extension of the human body and the processes of a working engine resemble that of living organs. With its seductive form and streamlined beauty, Chrysler Airflow was also Oldenburg's favorite toy as a boy. Yet for all its glamour the car was not as successful as first anticipated—released in 1934 it was out of production by 1937. Nevertheless, it remained an icon of consumerism and its smooth curves pay homage to the erotic quality associated with the automobile. It was, as Steve Jobs has said, design that made you "want to lick" it.
Why a multiple?
Somewhere between a multiple and a lithograph, Profile Airflow was the most non-print-like edition Oldenburg could have possibly devised. In fact, the process became so arduous and demanding that 18 different polymer consultants came by the Gemini G.E.L. studios to work on the plastic mold. Oldenburg once said that making a multiple was "the sculptor's solution to making a print."
What went wrong?
Oldenburg had clear ideas about the way multiple should look, it should be "clear in color, transparent like a swimming pool but of a consistency like flesh." However, a year after production—and with nearly all 75 editions already sold—the polyurethane compound began to discolor and turn brittle. It was then immediately decided to recall the works and remake them with a new polyurethane compound that 45 years later is still in perfect condition.
What was so radical about it?
Oldenburg's piece goes against traditional production and framing methods and expanded the boundaries of printmaking. Its use of vacuum plastic molds had never been used in a multiple before and had to be fabricated with outside help. Its radical step-forward echoed the technical demands made by Breer's visionary car design—its man-made styling and unconventional construction were too far advanced to be successful.
Is it up for auction?
Profile Airflow was last put up for auction by Robert Breer, the son of Carl Breer who had originally designed the Chrysler Airflow. It sold for $125,000 at Sotheby's in 2014, exceeding the valuation of $80,000-120,000.
Please click here to view works available to buy on fineartmultiple by Claes Oldenburg.