Stake Hitch


Claes Thure Oldenburg ( American, 1929 )


Coosje Van Bruggen ( American, 1942 - 2009 )

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General Description

Commissioned for the Dallas Museum of Art's Edward Larrabee Barnes downtown building, opened in 1984, the monumental site-specific Stake Hitch embodies artist duo Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's proclivity for sculptures that resemble everyday objects magnified to grandiose proportions. When installed in the 40-foot high barrel vaulted central court of the DMA'S contemporary art galleries, it appeared to be driven directly into the floor at the west end of the gallery with the tip of the stake humorously emerging into the loading-dock area located a floor below it, visible to the public through a window. Stake Hitch is reminiscent of the stakes used to anchor circus tents, mark boundaries on construction sites, or tether rodeo animals. Oldenburg wanted, "...a certain feeling of the outdoors and of country experience to be conveyed by the work in a rough way, to contrast with the refinement of the museum....Maybe there's a steer up there on the roof," he quipped.

In shape, it resembles a tornado, an image Oldenburg dates to a performance he did in Dallas in 1962 at the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts. Oldenburg, one of the best-known artists of the pop art movement, began his career in the late 1950s by staging Happenings, hybrid events of theater and art which were humorous, often raucous demonstrations of the absurdity of life. This engagement with the absurd carried over into his wry replications of humble things transformed to exist as if a parallel universe of recognizable yet nonfunctional objects.

The 5,500-pound Stake Hitch, fabricated of steel, aluminum, resin, and expanded foam, was commissioned by the museum to honor longtime benefactor John Dabney Murchison Sr. The sculpture was deinstalled in 2002.

Adapted from

  • Suzanne Weaver, "Stake Hitch," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 296.

  • Janet Kutner, "DMA's bold new 'Stake' Oldenburg work fills main gallery, Dallas Morning News, Sunday, April 29, 1984.

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 192.

Fun Facts

  • The twisted cord of the stake hitch is made of woven air conditioning duct.

  • Oldenburg says that the scale of Stake Hitch was influenced by construction equipment seen within the museum space during one of his visits.