Andy Warhol "Brillo Soap Pads Box" 1968 Stockholm Type.
Authentication by Richard Polsky of an original 1968 Stockholm Type Brillo Box. The only signed one known. Only 10-15 boxes were made.
Dear Mr. Hvidberg,
It is the opinion of Richard Polsky Art Authentication that Brillo Soap Pads is an authentic Andy Warhol.
Brillo Soap Pads, “Stockholm Type,” 1968
Silkscreen ink on plywood
17 ¼” x 17 ¼” x 14 ¼” (43.9 cm x 43.9 cm x 36.1 cm)
Pontus Hulten, Paris, France
Bengt Andersson, Malmo, Sweden
Peter Hvidberg, Helsingor, Denmark
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (exhibited 1968)
There is ample documentation, historical evidence, and clear intent on the part of the artist, to conclude that Brillo Soap Pads is a genuine Andy Warhol sculpture based on the following facts:
* In 1964, Andy Warhol shocked the art world by exhibiting a large group of now-classic Brillo Box sculptures, that mimicked the well-known consumer product. The show took place at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York; his first exhibition which featured sculpture.
* Four years later, in 1968, Pontus Hulten organized the first major Andy Warhol survey exhibition. The show took place at the Moderna Museet, in Stockholm. The evidence suggests that both Hulten and Warhol were in agreement that the exhibition should include a large group of Brillo Boxes.
* While it would have been logical for Warhol to ship the boxes which didn’t sell at his Stable Gallery show, to his Moderna Museet show, both he and Hulten were intent on saving money. For this reason, it made financial sense to fabricate them in Sweden. These became known as the “Stockholm Type” Brillo Boxes. They were given this designation by the authors of the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné.
* The Stockholm Type Brillo Boxes were constructed in the same dimensions as those exhibited at the Stable Gallery. They were also constructed from the same material; plywood. It should be noted that this contradicts the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné — which states they were made from Masonite.
* There were also differences in appearance: the front of each Stockholm Type box included the package design stock numbers “1A400” and the designation “24/18 PAD GIANT,” which appeared inside a semi-circle. The faces of the Stockholm Type boxes do not include the words, “24 GIANT SIZE PKGS.” The Stockholm Type boxes do not have the Brillo logo screened on their tops. The Stockholm Type boxes’ white undercoating was silkscreened rather than hand-painted like the 1964 edition.
* The Moderna Museet exhibition also included approximately 500 actual cardboard Brillo Boxes, supplied by Brillo’s parent company, Purex Industries. They were shipped to Sweden as “flats” and then assembled on the premises of the museum. Subsequently, they were stacked at the entrance of the show. The accompanying exhibition catalog Andy Warhol (which features multiple Warhol “Flowers” on the cover), includes a photograph of the installation, on the second to last page. Though very few of the cardboard Brillo Boxes survived, they are considered collectible, but not genuine Andy Warhols.
* The Stockholm Type boxes have been the subject of much misunderstanding and misinformation. This can be traced to the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné committee. They claimed they could find no written evidence of Warhol agreeing to fabricate a group of Brillo Boxes for the Moderna Museet exhibition.
* It is inconceivable that the Stockholm Type boxes would have been fabricated without Warhol’s permission. It is our belief that the construction of the Stockholm Type boxes was agreed upon verbally, through a phone conversation between Warhol and Pontus Hulten.
* Neil Printz, the co-editor of the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, eventually backtracked on the catalog committee’s dismissal of the validity of the Stockholm Type boxes — after originally claiming there was no written agreement to produce them. He was quoted in an email, to ARTnews, that the possibility of verbal authorization by Warhol “cannot be conclusively ruled out.”
* However, confusion over the Stockholm Type boxes exists to this day. It can be traced to the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné and its listing of numerous examples of Stockholm Type boxes as a distinct category of work. See: Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné (Volume 02A, catalog numbers 721.1-721.94)
* At a later date, they rescinded the above designation by referring to them as “exhibition copies.” They also combined them with a group of 105 Brillo Boxes that the curator Pontus Hulten commissioned for an exhibition in Saint Petersburg, that were fabricated in Malmo in 1990. This is the main reason why it has become difficult for the art market to recognize the genuine 1968 boxes as a legitimate body of work created by Andy Warhol.
* The confusion over the Stockholm Type boxes fits a pattern of how the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board sometimes “threw out the baby with the bath water.” In some ways, it is analogous to their position of “denying” the group of seven red “Self-Portraits,” from 1964, that were authorized by Warhol and created away from his studio at an off-site production facility. This resulted in the infamous “Joe Simon lawsuit,” which ultimately led to the dissolution of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board.
* We strongly disagree with the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board’s position in reference to the Stockholm Type boxes. The record shows that Andy Warhol had a preliminary verbal discussion with Pontus Hulten to determine which works would be included in his 1968 Moderna Museet survey show. Mr. Hulten requested that Warhol produce a group of Brillo Boxes. Though we’ll never know the exact number which were agreed upon, an educated guess is 100. This is based on the strong possibility of replicating the number of Brillo Boxes exhibited at his Stable Gallery show in 1964.
* It is difficult to determine the actual number of genuine Stockholm Type boxes in existence. After Andy Warhol and Pontus Hulten agreed to construct the boxes in Sweden, they proved to be more expensive and time consuming than originally anticipated. This likely resulted in far fewer Stockholm Type boxes being made than planned.
* Though we will never know for certain, the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board eventually put the total number of genuine “Stockholm Type” boxes at 10-15. However, as previously mentioned, they created confusion because the catalogue raisonné lists a total of 94, many of which they later decided (incorrectly) were created in 1990.
* While it is not clear how many of the actual 10-15 Stockholm Type boxes survived the Moderna Museet exhibition, it has been suggested that the number is very small; possibly 6-7. We believe that the example we have been asked to examine is one of them. We base this on the following documentation which supports this position:
* We have examined an extensive interview with Anna-Lena Wibom, Pontus Hulten’s ex-wife and collaborator, during the Moderna Museet Warhol exhibition. The interview, which took place in 2017, focused specifically on the Moderna Museet show and the Brillo Boxes. While the interview covers the preliminary planning of the exhibition — over 50 years ago — we found Ms. Wibom’s commentary to be credible.
* According to Ms. Wibom, somewhere between 50-100 Stockholm Type boxes were constructed. However, she explained that money (or lack of) was the determining factor, as far as how many were actually produced. Obviously, there is a big difference between 50 and 100. We believe that even the lower figure might be too high. While Ms. Wibom was uncertain of the number, she did emphasize that “it was certainly not 10-15 but more.”
* Ms. Wibom also confirmed the boxes were constructed from plywood.
* Another key point of Ms. Wibom’s testimony was that Andy Warhol saw some of the actual Stockholm Type boxes in person — and approved them. As she put it, “Yes of course he saw them. And he liked them.”
* Her final important point was that after the show, Pontus Hulten gave away the Stockholm Type boxes to individuals who were closely involved with the exhibition. She also mentioned that she and Mr. Hulten ended up with some boxes. We find this explanation credible, given the time period and the modest financial value of the boxes. The classic 1964 Brillo Boxes were sold at the Stable Gallery show for approximately $250 each. The Stockholm Type boxes would have been worth less.
* It is our belief that the reason the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board ultimately changed their mind, about the validity of the Stockholm Type boxes, was because they were not created at Warhol’s studio, and were fabricated at an off-site production facility in Sweden. However, Warhol’s philosophy was that it was acceptable for an artist to function as an art director. Hence, if he authorized Pontus Hulten to fabricate a group of Brillo Boxes for his show, then they became original works of his.
* The box that we have been asked to examine appears to be the only known signed Stockholm Type Brillo Box. The printed initials “A.W.” appear on one side of the box.
* Our position on the signature is one of neutrality; we cannot say for certain that these are Andy Warhol’s printed initials. Nor can we say with certainty that they are not. There is also the possibility that Warhol asked someone to initial it on his behalf.
* Generally, when Andy Warhol signed one of his works, he did so with a full signature. There were occasional instances where he signed one of his books by initialing it “AW.” However, on those occasions, he signed his initials — rather than printed them.
* A signature is not considered crucial, when it comes to determining the authenticity of an Andy Warhol work of art. It is an established fact that many genuine Andy Warhol works are unsigned. Warhol had a policy that he didn’t sign a picture until it left his studio, either for an exhibition, or because it had been sold. This was done largely for security reasons. In addition, in keeping with his philosophy of detaching himself from the art making process, he encouraged others to sign his work for him. These individuals included his assistants and even his mother, Julia Warhola. The dealer Ivan Karp, who’s credited with discovering Warhol, has gone on the record stating that he signed paintings for him.
* We find the provenance, attached to the Stockholm Type box, to be credible. The original owner of the box was Pontus Hulten. Though late in his career his reputation would suffer, he was once considered one of the art world’s top international curators. In 1968, during the Moderna Museet show, his art world standing was at its peak.
* Bengt Andersson, via Pontus Hulten, was the next owner of the Stockholm Type box. Mr. Andersson was a screenprinter whose company worked on a later series of Andy Warhol Brillo Boxes (1990) — commissioned by Hulten. The 1968 Stockholm Box, being examined, served as a prototype for these boxes.
This work of art has been assigned: RPAA Archive Number AW18 — 141
Authenticated by Richard Polsky Date