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The Phaidon Folio

Let John Baldessari Teach You How to Make a Conceptual Soap Sculpture in 3 Easy Steps


Let John Baldessari Teach You How to Make a Conceptual Soap Sculpture in 3 Easy Steps
A Large Piece of Soap Becomes a Small Piece of Soap Eventually by John Baldessari

Phaidon’s new book Do It Yourself brings together fun and easy projects from some of the most exciting artists and designers working today. In this excerpt, John Baldessari shows us how to carve a conceptual soap bar—to what end, we’re not entirely sure.




Soap by John Baldessari

Time: 5 min
Cost: U.S. $5/ ‎£3/ €4

Humor is a powerful force in the arts. Marcel Duchamp had it, Martin Kippenberger had it, and of course John Baldessari – the great Californian conceptual artist and creator of this piece – has it. They all care little for genre boundaries and laugh at art that takes itself too seriously. Baldessari created this project in collaboration with fellow artist Molly Berman. Carving a hole in a bar of soap so that it escapes the fate of becoming leftover soap that you throw away could be a quip about our rampant consumer culture. But it also shows that the design of bars of soap suffers from an inherent defect.




Soap. Knife.



 Step 1

1. Pick up the knife. Pick up the soap.

Step 2

2. Cut a hole in the soap.

Step 3

3. Smile.




John Baldessari

John Baldessari was born in National City, California. He attended San Diego State University and did postgraduate work at Otis College of Art and Design. Baldessari’s artwork, which spans painting, photography, printmaking, film, installation, and sculpture, has been featured in more than two hundred solo exhibitions in the United States and Europe. In 2009, he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, the art world’s highest honor. He lives and works in California.


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