Brillo Soap Pads Boxes, 1964
plywood boxes with serigraph and acrylic
boxes: 43.2 x 43.2 x 35.6 cm each
National Gallery of Canada (no. 15298.1-8)
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, inc. / SODRAC (2013)
In 1965, when Toronto art dealer Jerrold Morris tried to import a group of thirty Brillo Soap Pads Boxes for an exhibition at his gallery, Canadian customs officials questioned their status as art. Following protocol, they contacted Charles Comfort, then-director of the National Gallery of Canada, for clarification. On examining a photograph, Comfort determined the works were not art, but merchandise. Subjected to a duty that Morris refused to pay, the works did not enter Canada.
Two years later, Brydon Smith, curator of Contemporary Art, together with Jean Sutherland Boggs, the Gallery’s new director, purchased eight Brillo Boxes. For them, the works were indeed art, and more than that, art worthy of the national collection.