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Pickaxe

Claes Oldenburg, documenta 7, 1982

Claes Oldenburg's Pickaxe, which was created for documenta 7 in 1982, stands on the bank of theFulda. The "Pickaxe" is 12 metres high, and looks as if it were suspended in the air, but, in fact, weighs 5 tonnes. On one of his walks throughKassel,Oldenburgonce saw a pickaxe stuck in a mound of earth behind the Orangery. He took a photograph of it, and later produced the outlines of a model of this pickaxe.

A look at the Kassel city map with the approximately 6 kilometre Wilhelmshöher Allee, which leads straight from Wilhelmshöhe Castle into the centre of Kassel, inspired him to create this work.

Wilhelmshöher Allee ends at Brüder-Grimm-Platz, and Claes Oldenburg drew in an extension of this straight line in an eastern direction on the city map. In so doing, he discovered that this line touches the bank of the Fulda at precisely the point at which he had photographed the pickaxe. He decided to place his documenta work of art in this very spot, in order to establish the relationship between the Pickaxe and the city of Kassel.

Just like Walter de Maria with his "Vertical Earth Kilometre", Claes Oldenburg was also fascinated by Kassel's axes. The location is selected in such a way that it corresponds to a straight trajectory from the Hercules monument.  In order to adapt it to its environment, the Pickaxe had to be on a larger scale than a pickaxe that would have fitted the Hercules monument in terms of scale..