Claes OldenburgThe Soap at Baton Rouge
When Carl Solway called me in May 1972 and asked if I would be interested in proposing a large-scale work for Cincinnati, he mentioned that partial funding for such a work might be sought from the Procter & Gamble Corporation, whose world headquarters are in that city. The most familiar product of that company is the bar of pure white soap we all grew up with-lVORY-embossed with its name on top. Its slogan-"lt floats"-advertises one of its unique properties, a property it has in common with balloons and ships. What sprang to mind almost immediately, given the location of Cincinnati on the Ohio River, was the combination of a floating soap bar and an old-fashioned, paddle-wheel riverboat-in other words, a colossal bar of Ivory soap. I proposed to Carl that a colossal soap be made by Procter & Gamble and launched in Cincinnati with appropriate ceremony. It would thereafter float down the Ohio River, stopping at towns along the way. Carl thought that the event could be coordinated with celebrations of the Bicentennial in 1976. Another property of Ivory soap, however, had to be taken into account: its tendency to dissolve, which it does rather more quickly that other soaps. As the colossal soap moved from town to town, it would grow smaller, like the icebergs which, I read somewhere, were going to be towed from the Arctic to Arabia in order to provide fresh water. At Cairo, Illinois, the now somewhat-less-than-colossal soap would slip into the Mississippi. From there on, it would become more and more difficult to gather people to celebrate the visit of the soap. By the time the soap reached Baton Rouge, it would be the right size for a multiple. Though it seems small, one must remember that in the not-so-distant past, it would have made a very imposing sight, especially coming around the bend in the morning fog.