Brillo Box (Soap Pads) is a consumer product-inspired sculpture realized by Andy Warhol in 1964. The series accurately reproduces Brillo detergent boxes, a popular brand of American soap pads in the 1960s. It is considered one of the founding works of the Pop Art Movement.
What is Depicted in the Artwork?
Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes are silkscreened wooden sculptures of boxes of Brillo brand soap pads, a very cheap product sold in American supermarkets. They are exact copies of commercial packaging. The series was first presented in 1964 at the Stable Gallery in New York. The boxes were arranged by stacking them on top of each other: the interior of the art gallery thus resembled a supermarket. In this way, the artist displayed the consumerism of the 1960s society in which he lived and worked.
Brillo Box (Soap Pads) originated from an idea the artist had while planning the exhibition. Warhol asked his assistant Nathan Gluck to go to the grocery shop near the studio and buy some daily products, but he was not satisfied with the purchases. He wanted something more ordinary, such as Brillo soap pads.
After choosing Brillo Boxes, Warhol commissioned the plywood boxes and the silk-screen printed with his team the brand’s original labels on each box. They produced approximately 93 Brillo Boxes in the white variant and 17 smaller ones in yellow for the exhibition at the Stable Gallery.
The Brillo Box (3 Cents Off) series is part of the first series made by Andy Warhol, distinguished by the yellow color and the 3 Cent Off caption. However, the artist also made other versions. In 1970, for a retrospective exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum, he created Brillo Box Soap Pads (Pasadena Type) and a screen-printed exhibition poster of a Brillo Box with green, blue, and yellow variations.
Brillo Box (Soap Pads) sculptures are life-size replicas of everyday consumer products sold in supermarkets, a type of work that had already begun in 1912 with Campbell’s Soup Cans. The artist was fascinated by the popular imagery of advertising and mass-produced consumer goods objects used by everyone and which anyone, without distinction, could recognize.
Warhol’s art production is set in the 1960s. It was a historical moment of economic boom and consumerism. Art began to become part of an industrial, consumer, and advertising system, too. Brillo Box raises questions about how we identify and value something as art and about the commercial mechanism of art objects.
The American philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto In his essay Beyond the Brillo Box. The Art World After the End of History (2010), he interprets Brillo Box as the turning point of a new artistic era in which everything can be converted into art, spelling the end of art itself.
Andy Warhol’s position is not univocal, and it is open to interpretations: it can be interpreted as a criticism, an exaltation of the consumerist era, or a cold statement.
Andy Warhol creates mass-produced products, depriving his works of art of the concept of ‘unique piece’ and originality. The sculptures are made with silkscreen ink on wood, faithfully reproducing the design of the boxes for sale. As in advertising, the hammering repetition mechanism of the image makes the product highly desirable.The artist’s lack of authorship and direct participation in the creation of his works, combined with the frenetic pace of assembly-line work, earned Andy Warhol’s studio in New York the nickname ‘the factory’.
Andy Warhol is famous for other series of works devoted to industrial grocery store products. Among his early experiments are the screen-prints of Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) and Green Coca-Cola Bottles (1962), but also other sculptures of packaging for Kellogg’s cornﬂakes, Heinz ketchup, and other brands.
People Also Asked Question(s)
Why did Andy Warhol specialize in the silkscreen technique?
The artist once explained his preference for silk screening, explaining its rapidity and ‘machine-like’ technique: “I find it easier to use a screen. This way, I don’t have to work on my objects at all. One of my assistants or anyone else, for that matter, can reproduce the design as well as I could” (Andy Warhol in Kaspar König, Andy Warhol, 1968).
Why is Brillo Box not a ready-made?
Ready-made, for example, Marcel Duchamp’s famous ones, displayed the original object of ordinary use, elevating it to the status of a work of art. Contrary to what one might think, Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box is not ready-made: it is the replica of the consumer object. It is a copy and not the real product for sale.