Happy Hour with the Oldenburgs

Claes Oldenburg was known for keeping his studio at an excessively warm temperature, giving brave visitors the impression of spending an afternoon bathing in the lava of an angry Mount Vesuvius. Old photographs depicting Happy Hour at the Oldenburg residence seem to spring straight out of a Francis Bacon painting, with a cocktail of melted flesh and tortured bodies reaching out for the Sangria. His early work visibly suffered from the heat, as many sculptures were forced to melt in a sign of protest for better living conditions. The artist was used to hiding the heating bills in his alphabetized sock drawer to avoid conflict, but a drunken revelation of his steamy secret put an end to the debilitating heat, and allowed a new era of sculptural surprises to breeze in.