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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Brillo Box (3 cents off)

Details
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Brillo Box (3 cents off)
signed 'Andy Warhol' (on the underside); stamped with the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. stamp and numbered 'A102.965' (on the underside)
silkscreen ink and house paint on plywood
13 1/8 x 16 x 11½ in. (33.3 x 40.6 x 29.2 cm.)
Executed in 1963-1964.
Provenance
O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York
Arthur Cohen, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 3 May 1988, lot 56
Saatchi Collection, London
Private collection, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 15 November 1995, lot 222
The Collection of Robert Shapazian, Los Angeles
His sale; Christie's, New York, 10 November 2010, lot 10
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures, 1964-1969, vol. 2A, New York, 2004, pp. 58 and 61, no. 578.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Sandra Sublett
Sandra Sublett

Lot Essay

Brillo Box (3c off) belongs to the first series of box sculptures that Andy Warhol ever produced. He first began discussing the idea in 1962, when he was working on a three-dimensional version of his serial paintings of Campbell's Soup cans. At about the same time, Warhol's friend and photographer, Edward Wallowitch, took photographs of supermarket boxes stacked one on top of one another as part of the preparations for another sculpture that was never produced. Finally, eighteen months later, Dwan Gallery's John Weber visited Warhol in his studio. Warhol mentioned his intention of starting a sculptural series and Weber was immediately excited by the idea of wooden box sculptures. "Your idea of making cardboard boxes is sensational, if they could be finished in three weeks it would help me out" (J. Weber, quoted in G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, New York, 2004, p. 53). They made their debut at the Dwan Gallery in New York in February 1964 and Warhol would go on to make a further six series of boxes including those depicting Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Del Monte Peach Halves.

On a series of specially fabricated plywood boxes, Warhol painted a vivid yellow ground. Then he laid down two separate screens-one blue and one red-which captured in exacting detail the precise design of the cardboard original, right down to the promotional splash announcing "3 cents off." Just like his iconic 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), the stark ubiquity of Warhol's design prompted many to discuss not only whether this was art, but also the very purpose of art itself. It is therefore unsurprising that the first major discussion of the Brillo Boxes occurred not in any of the art journals, but instead in The Journal of Philosophy. There, as early as 1964, Arthur C. Danto spent a chapter of his essay "The Artworld," exploring the impact of the Brillo Boxes on the analysis of the time-honored and unanswerable question, "What is Art?" "Mr. Andy Warhol, the Pop artist, displays facsimiles of Brillo cartons, piled high, in neat stacks, as in the stockroom of the supermarket." He explains, "They happen to be made of wood, painted to look like cardboard, and why not? To paraphrase the critic of the Times, if one may make a facsimile of a human being out of bronze, why not the facsimile of a Brillo carton out of plywood?" (A. C. Danto, "The Artworld" in S. H. Madoff, (ed.), Pop Art: A Critical History, Berkeley & London, 1997, p. 275).

While this passage appears to vindicate Warhol's choice of subject matter and medium, there was still a public uproar at the nature of these works. However, absurdity was a key ingredient of Warhol's art. By taking the act of representation to this new level, Warhol was managing to question the entire nature of representation and the value of art. Warhol expressly used humble, everyday boxes as his subject matter, in the same way that he had previously used humble, everyday Campbell's Soup cans in his paintings. However, Warhol's sculpture tested the bounds of art in far more dramatic ways. While the Soup Cans shocked the art establishment when they were first exhibited in the Ferus Gallery in 1962 they were clearly pictures, but Brillo Boxes (3c off) and their context in an art gallery combined with their scale and their medium made it clear that they were not imitations of their subjects. Warhol was testing the bounds of suitable subject matter. The Brillo Boxes, which almost completely resemble the cartons that they imitate, are designed to make the judgments about where art begins and ends far more complicated.

It was as radically new forms of sculpture that Warhol's grocery boxes had their greatest influence however, being an important example of how a series of conceptual issues could be conveyed through the simplest of forms. This feature of the Brillo Boxes, along with the way in which Warhol had used them as an installation that transformed the gallery space, rather than as individual pieces of sculpture, held great significance for the development of much contemporary American sculpture in the latter half of the 1960s. Indeed, Warhol's semi-mechanically produced refabrication of the readymade in the form of a simple painted box has often been seen as opening the door to Minimalism and after the Stable Gallery show, it became commonplace for artists to have their work industrially manufactured and to actively withhold as much evidence of handcraft as possible.

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