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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Big Sweep, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, 2007
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Big Sweep, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, 2007

A 35-foot high sculpture of a broom and dustpan made of painted metal greets visitors at the base of the “prow” of the new addition to Denver’s Art Museum. The work, by artists Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg, offers a double incongruity. Art elevates a commonplace household task to monumental civic status here. And my distant vantage point creates enormous scale incongruity by contrasting the huge sculpture and the even larger museum building to the tiny figures walking below them.

(You can read Oldenburg’s own thoughts on the sculpture at )

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Phil Douglis19-Jan-2008 04:59
Good idea, Azlin. After all, who makes the mess of our cities?
Azlin Ahmad13-Jan-2008 14:59
My immediate interpretation of this is that the two people walking there represent the trash that the broom will aim for next!
Phil Douglis12-Aug-2007 18:11
Yes they are, Alina. They represent mankind -- and mankind is responsible for making the mess that requires
such a monumental cleaning task as this.
Alina12-Aug-2007 11:13
People are important here. Great shot!
Phil Douglis15-Jul-2007 00:08
You've answered a question that probably has been asked many times. Why is this oversized dustpan and broom sitting outside of an art museum? My first answer would be "because art can make us see things in new ways -- in this case, by elevating a common household task to a monumental accomplishment." And now you have given us another answer -- the broom is there to sweep us up as well, to capture our emotions, intellects, and imaginations. That is what art is supposed to do.
Tim May14-Jul-2007 22:10
Are we all to be swept up into the majestic mythical world of Art?
Phil Douglis14-Jul-2007 06:18
All of Oldenburg's work seems to be based on elevating commonplace objects and tasks to monumental importance through incongruous scale. ( See his other sculptures at the link above.) Looking at the "tiny, clueless consumers" as you call them, "goggling at the things around them" I wonder what they must be thinking at this moment.
Guest 14-Jul-2007 03:59
Gracious, what a scale, what an enormous building and what a perfect metaphor for this trash-filled planet and all the cleaning up that needs to be done! How a simple thing as a whisk broom and a dustpan in such a grand size can emphasize our need to become more aware of all that we toss out, consciously and unconsciously -- a wonderful image, complete with tiny, clueless consumers trotting along in the sun, goggling at the things around them.
monique jansen11-Jul-2007 19:32
I am hoping to see some of them this weekend:)
Phil Douglis11-Jul-2007 18:17
Yes, Mo -- Oldenburg and van Bruggen's sculptures the world over are known for creating scale incongruity. Here is a list of those erected between 1974 and 2002: I am sure you must have seen some of them in your travels. (Click on the little thumbnails for more info on each.)
monique jansen11-Jul-2007 14:16
Great study in scale incongruity
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