The Moment has a Q&A with Mike Bidlo, whose work, Not Warhol (Brillo Boxes, 1964), 2005 is currently on view in the Lever House lobby:

Did you ever meet him [Warhol] more formally?

Yes, at a party at Jean-Michel Basquiat's loft. There was a big group of people there, but I knew he knew who I was. It was a little awkward.

What about Gerard Malanga?

I was with him on a Brillo Box symposium in Nuremberg, Germany [in 1999] with Arthur Danto and others. He might come to the opening. To me he's the expert.

Malanga is the expert because he, along with Billy Name, did much of the fabrication of those first Stable Gallery Brillo Boxes in 1964. But everyone knows that story. What I want to know about is this "Brillo Box Symposium."

According to a footnote at, The International Symposium for Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes was held "under the auspices of the Akademie der Bildenden Kunste in Nuernberg, Friday, 19 November 1999." Danto presumably discussed his 1998 paper, "The End of Art," which took Brillo Boxes as the inflection point of a 3,000-year art historical cycle or something.

Malanga's paper titled, "How we made the Brillo Boxes," was reprinted in his 2002 book, Archiving Warhol. It provides the most familiar accounts of Malanga, Billy Name, and Warhol painting, turning, screening, and turning all seven varieties of the box sculptures in the first couple of months of 1964. [Four Stable Gallery boxes sold at Christie's in 2006 for $973,000.]


But the 1964 Brillo Boxes aren't the only ones Warhol made. Or Bidlo. Or--well, hold on. Back to The Moment:

If your Brillo Boxes shouldn't be considered a simple substitute for the originals, what should New Yorkers be looking for?

There are so many more layers. When you start peeling back the layers you see that Warhol did all these different versions himself. There's the Stockholm version, there's the Pasadena, the original Stable gallery version. So really it's about learning about the different providences [provenances? -ed.] of the piece, the situations that they were made for.

The image above is from the Tate Magazine, of Not Warhol (Brillo Boxes, 1969), 1991, and is Bidlo's replica of the 100 boxes Warhol authorized the Pasadena Museum to fabricate in 1969-70 [LACMA was allowed to refabricate 100 Kellogg's boxes. Warhol donated both sets of boxes to the respective museums.]

And before that, there were the 100 boxes Warhol authorized Pontus Hulten and the Moderna Museet to make in Sweden for the 1968 show organized by Kasper Koenig. Or was it 500? Or was that 500 actual cardboard Brillo Boxes bought from the company and 100 wooden ones to fill in? Or 10?

Until 2007, everyone thought they kind of knew. Or they didn't think much about it. Then some Swedish investigative journalists from Expressen reported that no wooden boxes were ever exhibited in 1968, only cardboard.

And the 94 1968 "Stockholm Type" Brillo Boxes which passed the Warhol Authentication Board's test, and were accepted into the 2004 catalogue raisonne, were actually part of a batch of 105 boxes Hulten fabricated in 1990, three years after the artist's death, in Malmo, Sweden. And that Hulten represented them as 1968 works in shows in St Petersburg and Copenhagen that year. And that he sold at least 40 of them in 1994 as 1968 works. [Does that include this group of 10?] And that he gave six of them to the Moderna Museet in 1995 as 1968 works.

Yow. "Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by Pontus Hulten, Stockholm" - Christie's, 1998.

The Authentication Board hastily examined the Stockholm Type boxes and issued a letter to owners, saying there were two types of Stockholm Box, one of which might actually have been made in 1968 or so. Maybe there are 10 of those. But there are no documents so far authorizing either those 10, or the 105 Hulten made, only the Stable Gallery and the Pasadena boxes, that's it. So far. And yet they fully accepted the Stockholm Boxes, no sweat. At this point, the only thing the Warhol Foundation people are saying is that they had nothing to do with this mess.

But what in the world was Pontus Hulten thinking? I mean, come on, the guy's a modern art museum demigod who founded the Moderna Museet, the Pompidou, and MoCA. It's not like he really could have just thought, "What the hell, I'll order me up 100 Brillo Boxes and start showing, selling, and donating them as if they're from 1968." Could he?

Did Hulten get authorization from Warhol in 1968, then not really use it [all], and just assume it was still valid? ArtNews quotes an unidentified source as saying that Hulten fabricated his 1990 boxes at the Malmo Konsthall with the help of its director [and Hulten's friend] Björn Springfeldt. Surely he could characterize how he and Hulten talked about the motives and assumptions for the production. [Factcheck: ArtNews says Springfeldt was director of Malmo Konsthall in 1990 when these boxes were fabricated. Actually, he had quit in 1989, to become director of Moderna Museet. He succeeded Olle Granath, who had succeeded Hulten, and who had been a co-curator of the Warhol show, and who was directly involved in its installation. He also owns three Stockholm Style Brillo Boxes he says were made in 1968. If there's anyone in the Swedish museum world not directly implicated in this story, would you please raise your hand?]

How different is Hulten's situation from, say, Giuseppe Panza's later controversies over authorization and remote fabrication of work by artists like Judd, Flavin, Andre, and Nauman? Does this Brillo Boxes question dovetail with the emergence of artists' certificates and minimalist-style, no-artist's-touch production? Are there other examples lurking out there where artists phoned a piece in, then didn't actually get involved--or even see--the final product? I'm going to guess yes.

If ever there were a time for another Brillo Box Symposium, it's right now.

"Andy Warhol's famous Brillo Boxes," from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 2007 []
2007 Authentication Board letter explaining the history and production of Warhol's box sculptures []
Nice hustle, Art News: "The Brillo Box Scandal," Nov. 2009 [, link updated to Sept. 2016]


Harrier and Jaguar, Fiona Banner's commission for Tate Britain's Duveen Galleries opened this week, and from the making of film and interview with the artist, it looks spectacular.


Banner has installed two decommissioned fighter jets--a BAe Sea Harrier XE695 and a SEPECAT Jaguar XZ118--in the grand neoclassical space. By altering each slightly, and by placing them in atypical, non-functional positions, the artist turned them into overwhelming, beautiful objects--sculptures--which nonetheless manage to retain all their original significance and meaning as highly advanced weapons of war.


The Harrier was covered with a delicately feathered matte wash and hung, nose down, just off the floor. It barely fits inside the limestone-clad hall. The SEPECAT Jaguar was stripped down to bare metal and polished to a mirror finish. It rests upside down, on its cockpit. Did I mention it looks spectacular?


With those reflections it generates, it's like a 3D realspace version of Google's distorted Street View portraits.

Video | Fiona Banner Harrier and Jaguar, 9'23" [tate channel]
Duveens Commission Series | Fiona Banner 2010, through 3 Jan. 2011 []

Thanks to Paul Schmelzer at Eyeteeth for pointing to Bob Nickas's great 1999 interview with Maurizio Cattelan. Good times.

I really wanted to focus on his experience with painting, so this excerpt starts kind of in the middle of the story of Maurizio not having enough time to do a show at de Appel in Amsterdam, so he breaks into the Galerie Bloom, steals everything in it, and exhibits it instead:

BOB: Whose work did you take?
MAURIZIO: Actually we took everything from the gallery ...

BOB: Like the fax machine and all the stuff in the office?
MAURIZIO: Everything. We rented a van, and just filled it up.

BOB: This was in Amsterdam?
MAURIZIO: Yes, at de Appel. They wanted me to do a piece in a week. But I'm not used to working so quickly. So I thought the best way to get something that fast was to take the work of someone else.

BOB: That's a new take on the readymade. [indeed, the show was called "Another F___ing Readmade" -ed.]
MAURIZIO: Well, when you don't know what to do ...

BOB: But didn't the people at de Appel ask, "Where did all this stuff come from?"
MAURIZIO: The story finished quickly, because the police came and there were problems ...

BOB: Were you arrested?
MAURIZIO: No. This is why I did the piece in Holland.

BOB: [laughs] Imagine doing that in New York.
MAURIZIO: It took a while for everyone to calm down, but then we became very good friends and they even asked me to do a show with them.

BOB: But that's your ultimate punishment -- you had to figure something out for another show.
MAURIZIO: Yeah, it's true.

BOB: Crime doesn't pay.
MAURIZIO: But I can tell you about the worst punishment I received. Once, I was talking with a collector, and he said, "I really would like to have a painting made by you." And I thought, "Yes, let's take this opportunity for once to see how difficult it would be to make a painting." So I said, "Send me a canvas and some colors and I'll do it." He said, "Whatever you want to do, it's fine for me." A week later, I received a white canvas -- that's probably still in my apartment -- and it was the most horrible nightmare for a year. It was there every morning. Waking up, it was the first thing I saw. After a year, I gave up.

Maurizio Cattelan with Bob Nickas, 1999 []

June 22, 2010

Muybridge Had A Posse

Now before we get too far, let me state for the record that so long as there's no thievery or lying involved, but appropriate credit or consideration is, I got no problem at all with a man who takes another man's photograph, tweaks it a bit, and re-presents it as his own.

That said, I am blown away by the awesomeness of Tyler Green's investigative interview with photography curator Weston Naef that questions the attributions of many early photographs in the Eadweard Muybridge retrospective at the Corcoran.


Naef has a pretty compelling, I'd almost say irrefutable, argument that before 1872, Muybridge published many photographs under his name [or his brand, really, since the questions arise about the period from 1866-1872, when Muybridge worked under the name Helios Studio] which were actually taken by others, including his friend and frequent business counterpart, the great Carleton Watkins.

Green and Naef cite specific examples of Muybridge photos slotting right into the missing slots in Watkins' photo sequences. There are even cases where the shots are identical.

The implications for the Corcoran's show--the first Muybridge retrospective ever--and the history of photography are pretty significant. Which doesn't necessarily take away from the exhibition or the catalogue, though Philip Brookman's account of Muybridge's career will certainly come in for revision.

I saw the show on opening day, and it is fantastic, an incredible accomplishment, and a wealth of wonderful photographs and stereographs. It was the show and the catalogue that catalyzed Naef's preliminary research, and the whole thing opens a very interesting window on the development of photography in the US, and especially in California, in the 19th century. There's much more research and analysis and discovery to be had here. And it'll be interesting to see how the show changes on its next incarnations at Tate Britain and SFMOMA.


But I know what you're all thinking: what does this mean for me? And by me, I do mean me, not you. Well, it means that now I don't know who made one of my favorite oddball images from the Corcoran show, a stereograph from Woodward Gardens, an early zoo/amusement park in San Francisco. It shows a slightly generic garden scene, but the focus is on a mirrored garden ornament--in which the photographer's own self-portrait is visible. That thing looks so much like a vanguard satellite, or a satelloon mockup, I am powerless before it. And now I find out it might not be Muybridge at all.

The intro to the 3-part interview: The Newest Eadweard Muybridge Mystery [modern art notes]
Looks like they picked the wrong week to name their otherwise awesome exhibition catalogue: Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change [amazon]
The Corcoran show runs through July 18. []
note: detail of the mirrored garden orb from UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, via Calisphere [thanks for that, too, Tyler]


The Brooklyn Rail's Phong Bui interviewed Vija Celmins about her show at David McKee Gallery

Brooklyn Rail: About the night sky paintings, I always wanted to ask you, with all of the subtleties of gray tones embedded in the white stars and the black sky, how do you build up the surface while controlling the balance of tones?

Vija Celmins: Well, the rather boring technique is this: what I do is I first draw in a pattern that breaks the surface, and then I draw the different sizes of circles for the stars. Next, with a small sable brush, I apply a tiny drop of liquid rubber; it hardens and I build up to a desirable thickness. I then paint different layers of ivory blacks that have been mixed with burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and sometimes with a bit of white. And I use alkyd, which takes about two days to dry, and once it's dry, I then take off the little rubber bumps, which create those little holes with various kinds of white, which is mixed with a little bit of cerulean blue, and sometimes with raw umber or yellow ochre.

Rail: What kind of white?

Celmins: A combination of titanium and zinc white. And I keep filling those holes until they come up to the same level as the black surface.

Rail: That's intense.

Celmins: And I often sand it a little, so that the whole surface is totally uniform, flat, and has very tight skin.

It's the perfect balance between boring and intense that makes her paintings such marvels.

Vija Celmins with Phong Bui [ via two coats of paint]
image: Dark Galaxy, at David McKee Gallery through June 25 []

June 2, 2010

Pour Copie Conforme

After bagging on Blake Gopnik's comments on Marcel Duchamp playing the buyers of his readymades for fools, I started looking more closely at Duchamp's actual statements and working process. It's so easy to consider him as just a source of ideas, and to forget that in fact, he expended a great deal of effort and time on the creation of objects.

On the other hand, that dude would sign just about anything that wasn't nailed down. Including readymades that were really made, or found, or bought, by others. All over the place. The only thing that stopped him, it seems, was Arturo Schwartz, who insisted Duchamp stop signing stuff to protect the value of the 1964 readymade editions.


One example: when the late photographer, painter, and avant garde filmmaker Dennis Hopper met Duchamp on the day of the opening of his 1963 retrospective in Pasadena, he grabbed a sign from the Hotel Green, where Duchamp was staying, and asked him to sign it. And he totally did.

Another, from Francis Naumann's incredible practice history, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction, which I picked up at the suggestion of John Powers [Naumann's gallery was the site of that fantastic Duchamp chess show last year.]:

During the time of the Pasadena exhibition, Duchamp was invited to attend a breakfast in his honor at the home of Betty Asher, an important collector of contemporary art who lived in West Los Angeles. Among the thirty or more guests she invited, one of them, Irving Blum, then owner of the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, asked Duchamp if he would consider signing a bottle rack he had found and purchased from a local thrift shop. Just in case the artist agreed, Blum brought the item along with him to the breakfast. When Blum asked, Duchamp responded: "Gladly," whereupon Blum retrieved the work from the trunk of his car and Duchamp signed it on the bottom rung, adding the usual inscription, "pour copie conforme," and the date: "1963-14". When Blum was in the process of returning this treasured artifact to the trunk of his car, Richard Hamilton reportedly rushed out of the Asher house and quipped: "You are, of course, aware of the fact, Mr. Blum, that in order to devalue his work, Duchamp signs everything." [p.235, emphasis added for the awesome parts]
Indeed, and one of the last things he signed was the replica of Bicycle Wheel which Hamilton had made, and had asked Duchamp to sign the next time he passed through London. [Blum donated his Bottle Rack, below, to the Norton Simon Museum in 1968 after Duchamp's death.]


And Pontus Hulten told how Duchamp said the Modernamuseet could save money by making a bunch of readymade replicas for a show instead of shipping them: "Duchamp later signed everything. He loved the idea that an artwork could be repeated. He hated 'original' artworks with prices to match." [p.213]

Which is making me nod and laugh out loud right now as I sit here, with a pile of pens, signing my name over and over and over on the stack of certificates for the edition I'm doing with, which is going to be announced very soon. Stay tuned.


No, not Michael Whitney Straight. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, in a 1995 interview with Rob Storr:

There's a great quote by the director of the Christian Coalition, who said that he wanted to be a spy. "I want to be invisible," he said, "I do guerilla warfare, I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know until election night." This is good! This is brilliant! Here the Left we should stop wearing the fucked-up T-shirts that say "Vegetarian Now." No, go to a meeting and infiltrate and then once you are inside, try to have an effect. I want to be a spy, too. I do want to be the one who resembles something else.
Thanks to the de la Cruzes, Felix got his chance. They must have loaned his 1991 candy pour, Untitled (Portrait of Dad) to the State Department's Art in Embassies Program at some point, because it was also included in an AIEP 40th anniversary exhibition in 2004, which was installed in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Sitting on a sheet of plastic, and with a little label perched next to it. Classy.

Around the World in 40 Years: ART in Embassies Program Celebrates its 40th Anniversary []
[image from Felix Gonzalez-Torres anthology, 2006, ed. Julie Ault, p. 84]

More from Giuseppe Panza's 1985 Archives of American Art Oral Histories interview with Christopher Knight, this time on Panza's preference for abstraction:

But I believe that the modern science reveal to our knowledge a world which is far above the possibility of our eyes to see. Our eyes have limit in having perception of reality. But knowledge is going well above this limit. For this reason we don't need anymore to use images which our eyes can perceive. Because the world which we can know through our intellect, through our knowledge, is wider than the image coming through our eyes. If you look at the microscope, anything which is around us, you see an abstract image. If you look to photographs of stars, they are abstract images. For this reason, abstraction is a closer image of the real which is above around us. It's a tool more efficient to inform us about reality.
This especially stuck out because it resonates so well with my idea to re-create one of the most extraordinary photographic achievements in history, the National Geographic Society-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, a 10-year mission to create an atlas of the universe [actually, those detectable objects in the slice of sky visible from the Northern Hemisphere]. The NGS-POSS produced a grid of 935 pairs of photographs of the night sky, which were printed and distributed to universities around the world [country?]

Scientifically, they are completely obsolete; paper prints of the glass negatives turned out to be a poor research medium. And subsequent surveys have had orders of magnitude greater resolution.


So the only justification I can see for their continued existence is as an art object; they certainly are beautiful. Printing another set would underscore their both their obsolescence and their beauty, and the ambitious folly of such scientific endeavors, which later artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher would only begin to hint at in their work

Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, interviewed by Christopher Knight in 1985 for the Archives of American Art:

DR. PANZA: Well, the connection between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art was made through Rauschenberg, because if you look at Rauschenberg, you see also the sign of the painting. We don't see only the collage, also the object, the real object. And for this reason, it was natural for me to arrive at the Pop Art. However, when the Rauschenbergs came into my house there was some people which was very interested, but very few, but some was very fascinated by the work by Rothko and Kline, and Tapies, and to see this kind of art so different, so vulgar, made with the objects which are really found by upsetting the container of the trash, was a scandal for these people. [Laughs.] But I felt a great interest in the work by Rauschenberg because I see from the nature of this details, a relationship to something which happened in his past. It's an inducement to memory, the work of Rauschenberg. Are all the ties made with the connection to something real, which is fading away, because it's a fact which happened in the distant past when perhaps the artist was young. The quality of this material, which became old because are perishable materials. The paper, the wood, the objects add this kind of distance to the memory, making the object stronger because is alive in the memory. Because it's a matter of fact, but something which we have strong experience in the distant past, is by the memory in some way changed, became more beautiful, because lose reality and get more ideal reality. This process is very strong in the work of Rauschenberg, especially in the ones made in the fifties.
Just working my way through. Panza's English doesn't skim very well, but his descriptions of James Turrell installations are fantastic, some of the clearest I've ever read. For example, this account of a 1973 visit to a room in the artist's house, which I confess, I've never heard of--is it a reference to the Main and Hill Studio installations in 1968-70 mentioned in Turrell's bio?:
DR. PANZA: In Santa Monica, in his house, there was another room which was completely dark. This room was nearby a street corner, with lights in the middle of the street. One side of the room was overlooking a small road with a little track. The other side was looking at the main street with many cars passing through. And there was a lamps of public light nearby; there was some small houses nearby. And Turrell, at the end wall of this room, made holes which was possible to open and to close in different positions of the wall. Opening the hole was facing the streetlight, it was possible to have inside the room only the light coming from the red, the green and the yellow light, leaving [off] the light of the street.

MR. KNIGHT: Of the streetlight?

DR. PANZA: Yes, the streetlight. And the room was filled of, for some minutes, of a beautiful red light. And after, the yellow one. And after, the green one.

MR. KNIGHT: And it would change.

DR. PANZA: And closing this wall but opening another one, it was possible to see only the light projections of the cars which was passing fast in the main street. And this light was coming inside the room like a lightning, filling the room with very strong light, but for a very short time. And afterward disappear; the room became again dark. Opening another hole, it was possible to see only the car coming from the small street, and for some minutes the room was completely dark, but after, some small dim light was coming into the room stronger and stronger. This light had shape, and this shape was going around the room when the car was turning in the main street. And there was a completely different feeling of the light. And opening another one, it was possible to have only the light coming from the far away public light from the street, not the one nearby the house, but one very far. And this light was very dim, but was filling, in a very peaceful way, the room. It looks like the moonlight. It was giving the same kind of emotion, because was visible only the shadow of the objects inside. There was a confused notion of the volume of the space. The room was looking very much larger, almost endless, because there was almost no shadow, a very faint shadow. Everything inside the room was looking like having lost material quality, gaining some kind of ideal entity, which was no more earthly, but heavenly. Something very strange, very metaphysical. And there was a series of this experiences which was very beautiful, made in a very simple way, showing the quality of many kind of light.

This use of only found light, it's like those seemingly pop/superficial pieces that use reflected light from TVs showing cartoons, like in the Mondrian Hotel's elevator lobbies, crossed with a quintessentially Los Angeles mockup of the timeless/profundity of Roden Crater. Someone please tell me this still exists.

update: haha, of course not. It turns out it's the building that used to be called the Mendota Hotel, and the works are his seminal, site-specific, Happening-like Mendota Stoppages. I'd always read Mendota as a studio, not a house [though it was, in fact, both.] Of course it is now a Starbucks.


Roberta Smith loves loves loves the Ken Price/Josef Albers show at Brooke Alexander. I all but stumbled across it a couple of weeks ago after finding Brooke's interview with Price (PDF), and I have to agree. It is incredibly fresh.

Its overarching theme is that abstraction is reality-based, distilled from lived experience, and actualized through highly personal approaches to process and materials. It's a lesson in life as much as art.
Albers' paintings and especially the prints, are additive, while Price's method is subtractive: he builds up layers of paint, then sands it down.

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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