Raymond Saroff papers concerning Claes Oldenburg, 1953-2009

A Finding Aid to the Raymond Saroff papers concerning Claes Oldenburg, in the Archives of American Art, by Catherine S. Gaines

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Raymond Saroff (b. 1922), a resident of New York City, is a filmmaker and collector of modern art and folk art.

In 1960, Saroff purchased Leg, a paper maché sculpture by Claes Oldenburg. Around the same time, he became interested in "Happenings." Using borrowed equipment, Saroff filmed a series of 1962 "Happenings" known as "Ray Gun Theater" that Oldenburg presented to small audiences in a storefront on East Second Street, New York City.

Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) a Swedish born sculptor, is a leading Pop Artist, best known for colossal public sculpture of everyday objects - lipstick, rubber stamp, scissors, clothespin, ashtray. In the early 1960s, he staged several "Happenings" in a store where he created a Pop Art environment filled with plaster objects.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Raymond Saroff papers concerning Claes Oldenburg are dated 1953-2009 and comprise 0.8 linear feet. Letters, printed material, and photographs compiled by Saroff document his interest in Oldenburg and "Happenings." Also included are a videotape of Saroff's film, Claes Oldenburg's "Ray Gun Theater - 1962" and receipts for artwork purchased for his modern art collection that contained a sculpture by Oldenburg.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as # series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:


  • Oldenburg, Claes, 1929-


  • Collectors and collecting--New York (State)--New York

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Video recordings


Gift of Raymond Saroff, 2011.

Separated and Related Materials

There is a Claes Oldenburg oral history interview conducted by Bruce Hooten for the Archives of American Art, February 19, 1965. Other interviews with Oldenburg available at AAA are found among the Alan R. Solomon papers (reels 3922) and Washington Gallery of Modern Art interviews of Artists, April-June, 1963. In addition, Oldenburg participated in the Waldorf Panel on Sculpture, February 17 and March 17, 1965.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed to a minimal level by Margot Chandler in 2011.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original material requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Raymond Saroff papers concerning Claes Oldenburg are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

Location of Originals

How to Cite this Collection

Raymond Saroff papers concerning Claes Oldenburg, 1953-2009. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Letters, 1965-2009
(Box 1; 0.2 linear ft.)

Letters from the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art concern gifts and loans from Saroff's art collection. A letter from Claes Oldenburg requests permission for use of a brief segment from Saroff's film about him in a new documentary.

Box Folder
1 1-2 Letters, 1960-2009, undated
(2 folders)

Series 2: Sales Receipts, 1953-1985
(Box 1; 1 folder)

Sales receipts, arranged by gallery, are for contemporary art purchases, including Leg, a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg.

Box Folder
1 3 Sales Receipts (A-Z, by gallery), 1953-1986

Series 3: Printed Material, 1960-1995
(Boxes 1-2; 0.4 linear ft.)

Printed material consists of exhibition catalogs, clippings, press releases and miscellaneous items about or mentioning Oldenburg.

Box Folder
1 4-6 Exhibition Catalogs, circa 1960-circa 1970
(3 folders)
Box Folder
2 1 Exhibition Catalogs, 1970-1972
2 2 Clippings, 1960-1995
2 3 Press Kit, 1995
2 4 Miscellaneous Printed Items, 1964-1995, undated

Series 4: Photographic Materials, 1960s-1970s?
(Box 2; 0.1 linear ft.)

Photographs and a color transparency are of Oldenburg's work in several media.

Box Folder
2 5 Photographs - Artwork by Oldenburg, 1960s-1970s
2 6 Color Transparency - Artwork by Oldenburg, 1960s-1970s

Series 5: Videotape, 1995
(Box 2; 0.1 linear ft.)

In 1962, ten "Happenings" conceived by Oldenburg and known as "Ray Gun Theater," were presented in New York City at a store on East Second Street. Each evening-long event was filmed by Saroff, who then edited them to distill their essence to approximately two hours. It has been released commercially on VHS videocassette and DVD.

Box Folder
2 7 Claes Oldenburg's "Ray Gun Theater - 1962" by Raymond Saroff (1962), 1995
(VHS videocassette)