Bethlehemkirch-Platz, Mauerstrasse, Berlin
Stainless steel, fiber-reinforced plastic, jute netting, polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride foams; painted with polyester gelcoat
27 ft. 6 in. (8.4 m) high x 24 ft. 4 in. (7.4 m) diameter
Commissioned 1993 by Ronald S. Lauder
Donated by The Honorable and Mrs. Ronald S. Lauder to the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies Gift to the Nation, 2001
Temporarily installed in front of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, Germany, for the exhibition Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, February-May, 1996; and in Berlin September 1997
The original Houseball, made for the performance Il Corso del Coltello, was based on the idea that one could gather all one's possessions in a large cloth and tie them up in the form of a ball that would roll -- thereby making any other transportation unnecessary -- to its next destination. The house was left behind; its contents became a house in itself. In Il Corso del Coltello, the Houseball, second only to the Knife Ship as a thematic object, was made up of the possessions of Georgia Sandbag, a character played by Coosje, and it accompanied her on a journey across the Alps. Later, Coosje came to see the Houseball as a symbol of displaced populations, the ordeal of refugees, and in 1993 she proposed a larger, permanent version of the sculpture for a site in Berlin, near what had been Checkpoint Charlie, the gate of entry in the Berlin Wall. The site was a traffic island, visible from all sides, in the midst of a new business complex. The Houseball was approved, but shortly after fabrication of the piece began, the site was returned to members of a family dispossessed during World War II who planned to put a building on it. Quite characteristically, the Houseball was again on the move.
The first appearance of the sculpture was in Bonn, in front of the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik, Deutschland, to which it journeyed by boat from a factory near San Francisco through the Panama Canal and up the Rhine River. The following year the sculpture was shipped -- suspended by a 300-foot-long cable attached to a Russian helicopter -- from Rostock on the Baltic Sea, and lowered onto a permanent site in Berlin not far from the original location, on the Bethlehemkirch-Platz, in front of a building by Philip Johnson.