Scale and Proportion in Art

Topic/Title—“Feeling Small: Scale and Proportion in Art”

Imagine walking on the grounds of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO where you encounter one of Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s giant shuttlecocks.  You are taken aback by the absurd enormity of the shuttlecock and begin to contemplate its meaning in relation to its disproportionate scale.  A “normal” shuttlecock would fit within the palm of your hand.  This shuttlecock could crush you!  Therefore, you MUST analyze the sculpture based on its relationship to the size of YOUR body.

Ask yourself—“What are my initial thoughts as I view and walk around this giant shuttlecock?”

Ask yourself—“Does the shuttlecock make me feel uncomfortable and endangered?”

Ask yourself—“Does this work of art make me laugh?  If so, why am I laughing?”

Ask yourself—“What meaning does the odd use of scale and proportion give to the sculpture?”

As with your discussion board assignment, there are no right or wrong answers here.  This essay should be an evaluation of YOUR reaction to (virtually) seeing scale and proportion at work in Shuttlecocks.  In short, you will evaluate how scale and proportion were used by Oldenburg and van Bruggen to provide us with an art-viewing experience that is, to say the least, strange.


Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Shuttlecocks (one of four). 1994. Aluminum, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, and paint.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Sosland Family, F94-1/1.

Photo: Jamison Miller © 1994 Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

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