SHORTS PROGRAM 5: BRILLO BOX (3¢ OFF) (Lisanne Skyler, 2016)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Bruno Walter Auditorium
West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Monday, October 3, $15, 6:30
Tuesday, October 4, $15, 9:15
Festival runs September 30 - October 16
Brillo Box (3¢ Off) is a charming and delightful look at art, family, and popular culture, as director Lisanne Skyler turns her camera on her mother and father to explore what became a major point of contention in their marriage. In 1969, young collectors Martin and Rita Skyler purchased a yellow “Brillo Box (3¢ Off)” by Andy Warhol for $1,000 from Ivan Karp at O.K. Harris in SoHo; five years earlier, in 1964, when the Skylers got engaged, the “Brillo Boxes” sold for $200 when they were first displayed. In 1971, Martin traded the box for a drawing by Abstract Expressionist dot painter Peter Young. In 2010, the Skylers’ “Brillo Box (3¢ Off)” sold at Christie’s for $3 million. In this intimate and lighthearted documentary, Skyler traces the history of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes — which were wood copies of the original boxes found in stores, designed by Abstract Expressionist James Harvey — the provenance of the specific box her family owned, and the birth, death, and rebirth of Pop art, via interviews with her parents as well as experts in the art world. “I started out not trying to be a connoisseur or anything like that but thinking that something I enjoyed doing could also just be another way of making money grow,” her father explains. Meanwhile, her mother felt a closer connection with the art, particularly with the Brillo Box, which she encased in Plexiglas and used as a coffee table. The Skylers also bought and sold works by Jake Berthot, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, and Richard Serra.
Skyler, who has previously made such documentaries as No Loans Today and Dreamland and such fiction films as Getting to Know You and Capture the Flag, combines family photographs and home movies with archival footage of Warhol and anecdotes from curators, artists, dealers, collectors, and critics, including Jessica Todd Smith, Irving Sandler, Christie’s Laura Paulson, Kenny Schachter, Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner, and John Armaly, president and CEO of Brillo/Armaly Brands. The forty-minute film, which features a playful score by Tape Waves, maintains a sweetly innocent attitude throughout while taking a quick look at how the art world has changed from the 1960s to 2010, particularly in regard to Warhol. “The world is more Warholian today than it was when he died,” art collector and dealer Daniel Wolf notes. Skyler also provides a terrific surprise at the end. An HBO film scheduled to air in 2017, Brillo Box (3¢ Off) is screening October 3 and 4 at the New York Film Festival in “Shorts Program 5: Documentaries” with Lewie Kloster’s Legal Smuggling with Christine Choy, Esteban Arrangoiz’s El Buzo, Matt Tyrnauer’s Jean Nouvel: Reflections, Ian McClerin’s Rotatio, and Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko’s The Vote. Several of the filmmakers and crew members will be present for Q&As, including Skyler.