ILLY (The Tin is Half Full.), 2007
21 December 2016

In recent years, the Illy corporation has been at the forefront of patronage in the art world, in particular at art fairs with its sponsored lounges, and also in its limited edition espresso cup collections, created by artists including Marina Abramovíc, Julian Schnabel, and Jeff Koons. The founder of the company invented a unique pressurization method by which the coffee is kept fresh in a resealable container. Illy is produced in Trieste, Italy, which was also the home of Italo Svevo, who self-published his novel La Coscienza di Zeno in 1923. The novel’s protagonist, a nicotine addict, is writing his memoirs at the encouragement of his psychoanalyst. James Joyce, who became friends with Svevo during his years in Trieste, was an early proponent of the book and translated it into French.

In 2001 an 8.8 oz. Illy coffee tin was filled with the cremated remains of Mary Ellen Carroll’s father and placed in the glove compartment of the 1985 Buick Riviera that she inherited from him. The tin remained in that location as the car was shipped across the Atlantic for the realization of the performance Late, in which the vehicle was crashed into the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde München. When the car was shipped back to the United States, the Illy tin remained in the glove compartment, undisturbed by U.S. customs agents. An image and description of the contents of the Illy tin were sent in 2006 to auction houses for valuation. Half of the contents were used in the performance Whatever it Takes at the Power House in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2007. In the piece, the artist dressed in a polar bear suit and ascended a dead smokestack to dump half of the tin of ashes down the chimney.