Saturday, August 5, 2017

Warhol (again) in Lisanne Skyler's family-and-"fine"-art documentary, BRILLO BOX (3¢ off)

As one of the several interviewees points out in the new and thankfully short documentary, BRILLO BOX  (3¢ off), regarding Andy Warhol, his art and career: "He got what we're about." Warhol sho 'nuff did: marketing, together the kind of with lemming-like herd response that has only grown more pronounced down the ensuing decades. The doc does try to take in some of the mixed responses to Warhol's art over the years, but mostly it comes down firmly on the side of money. If something brings in millions on the auction block, it damned well must be art.

The writer and director of this interesting little film is Lisanne Skyler, shown at left, whose parents, Rita and Martin, bought one of the now famous faux Brillo soap pad shipping boxes dreamed up by Mr. Warhol back in 1964 when he silk-screened the original Brillo packaging, designed by abstract expressionist James Harvey, and recreated it on wooden boxes that were the same size as the originals. The Skyler family paid $1,000 for the box (a not-insignificant amount back then) and hung on to it for some time. Martin Skyler claims to have been a bit more interested in investment than art, but Rita says she always loved the piece and did not want to part with it. They did, however, and their daughter has now tracked the history of that very box, as it made its way from the Skyler household to various owners until that red-letter day when it fetched its three million dollars at the Christie's auction shown below).

Ms Skyler's filmmaking is peppy and fun to view and hear, no matter what your opinion of Warhol and his art might be. There's a wealth of old Skyler family footage, and the filmmaker has done her legwork, getting interviews from various important names in the art world.

The anecdotes served up along the way -- particularly one about how Martin managed to get Warhol to actually sign his name to the Skyler's box -- are also fun. And the decades-later meeting between Martin and the artist Peter Young, a piece of whose art Skyler's purchased by first selling the Warhol Brillo Box, is both amusing and ironic. The movie's rah-rah attitude about art may have you ready to re-see other, more contrarian art movies such as Art Bastard or the recent Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back. But the documentary's finale, during which we see the youngest members of Skylar family getting their own "art education," makes a nicely appropriate, family-still-loves-art wrap-up.

From HBO Documentary Films and running just 40 minutes,  Brillo Box (3¢ off) makes its debut exclusively on HBO beginning this Monday, August 7 (the day after what would have been the late artist's 89th birthday).

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