Review: Brillo Box 3¢ off
By Frederick Henderson
Brillo Box 3¢ off follows Lisanne Skyler’s family and their Andy Warhol Brillo Box. In 1969, her mother and father bought a yellow Brillo Box of the “emerging, fringe artist,” Andy Warhol for $1000. The piece sold in 2010 for over 3 million, however Martin Skyler had long since parted with it. We watch not only the art world and Andy Warhol evolve, but a family as well.
In 1964, Andy Warhol exhibited seventeen yellow Brillo Boxes as part of an exhibition that included boxes from brands such as Kellogg’s and Del Monte. The show itself was slated and the boxes themselves not sold. Martin Skyler still wanted one a few years later, and Andy Warhol signed it in red crayon. A couple of years later he swapped it for a Peter Young. The documentary examines the family, two ‘classically’ untrained eyes collecting, buying and swapping these notable works. The short is full of cute images of Lisanne Skyler and her siblings as children surrounded by these museum worthy pieces. The most notable one of her is a baby on top of the famous Brillo Box.
The film is fun lighthearted and informative. The focus on family and the art market keeps you captivated; it gives rare insight into how one box came to be what it was in 2010. How something from a humble home with a baby on top of it went from the hands of a man like Saatchi to being sold anonymously for over $3,000,000. Yet it is not this insight into the art world that was the highlight, it was the insight into Martin and Rita Skyler. Whilst most documentaries on Warhol are full of art critics or Warhol mega fans, here we have a family, granted not your average family but nonetheless a family, who claimed to have little or no knowledge about art and simply bought what they liked. There is purity in the purchase of the Brillo Box, the Way Martin Skyler talks about seeing it on the floor of a gallery for the first time. How he covered it in Plexie Glass so that it was protected and it took the role of a coffee table for everyone to see and use. There is something about the yellow box, a presence that captivated Martin Skyler in 1969, that evokes emotion in Rita Skyler when she thinks about it, and launched a bidding war at Christie’s decades later.