(Rubik) cubism, or the artistic career of the cube.
Everyone knows this iconic logic puzzle. However, the difficulty in solving it is not the only interesting thing hidden in […]
Everyone knows this iconic logic puzzle. However, the difficulty in solving it is not the only interesting thing hidden in the Rubik’s Cube.
Architects of success
Almost half a century ago, Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian architect, sculptor and university teacher, wanted to help his students better understand the three-dimensionality of objects and issues related to space design. In 1974, he developed a movable cubic model of the magic cube, which became the prototype of the game known today. Rubik discovered – by accident – that after rearranging and mixing the colors on each face, it is extremely difficult to restore the cube to its original state. This is how he came up with the idea of constructing and patenting a three-dimensional toy – initially licensed only for Hungary, and from the late 1970s, due to cooperation with the American company Ideal Toys, also for the rest of the globe.
In 1981, the Rubik’s Cube became a world madness: almost everyone played it, regardless of age, gender or nationality. A year later, the first world championship in this new, a bit odd discipline was held, uniting the greatest admirers of Ernő Rubik’s invention. It is said that the number of combinations of different positions of the classic 3x3x3 cube is over… 43 trillion. The cube among “ordinary mortals” has long been known to be unsolvable, although various instructions, auxiliary materials, and even magazines devoted to the phenomenon of the puzzle were created for them. The real sensation, however, was caused by a 13-year-old boy, Patrick Bossert, when he published the book-guide “You Can Do the Cube”. The publication sold over 1.5 million copies, lifting the British teenager to the top of the bestseller lists. The Hungarian factory producing cubes, although working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, did not keep up with the production, and several factories scattered around the world produced approximately 1.5 thousand units per month. This state lasted for several years – until the decline in interest in the mid-1980s.
Cube for the bold
In 1995, on the occasion of the official 15th birthday of the Rubik’s Cube, the prestigious Diamond Cutters International jewelry store created the “Masterpiece Cube” – to this day the most expensive Rubik’s Cube in the world, costing a trifle 1.5 million dollars. It is made of 18 carat gold, and instead of colored stickers, each side of the cube is set with 34 carats of rubies, 34 carats of emeralds and 22.5 carats of amethysts. “Absurdly expensive trinket for an eccentric millionaire” – you may think? Perhaps, but the “Masterpiece Cube” is not only made to be admired through the glass of the display case. The precious toy is not only a delightful piece of jewelry art, but it is also fully functional and can be stacked successfully! Good news for owners of too many millions of dollars: the cube is still available for sale.
Paint, canvas, Rubik’s cube
At the beginning of 2020, a portrait of Mona Lisa was sold at an auction in Paris – the new owner paid over 480,000 euro for it. Fortunately, however, it was not the original painting by Leonardo, but a contemporary image of his most famous model, made of over 300 Rubik’s cubes.
The work was created in 2005, and its author is the French street art artist Franck Slama, also known as Invader (pseudonym taken from the cult retro slot game, Space Invaders). The mysterious artist who hides his face in all photos or videos behind pixelated “censorship” is considered to be the founder of the “rubikcubism” style. Its main artistic medium and material is, of course, the Rubik’s Cube. Although the Mona Lisa was his first work made in this technique, Invader recreated many other classic works of art, including “Breakfast on the Grass” by Édouard Manet or “The Origin of the World” by Gustave Courbet.
Franck Slama is not the only artist exploring the artistic potential of the world’s most famous toy. Compositions made of cubes are also created by the Italian Giovanni Contardi, the American Pete Fecteau and the muralists from the Cube Works Studio, who enter the urban space with “Rubikubism”. The latter are the authors of the largest work in the world made of Rubik’s cubes: their mosaic showing the panorama of Macau in China consists of as many as 85,794 cubes; its measures are about 4 meters high and over 60 meters wide.
You can certainly wonder whether the increasing use of Rubik’s cubes as purely aesthetic objects is associated with the loss of their popularity as a game or even a sport. Perhaps in the era of new technologies and video games that recreate reality more and more realistically, such logical and manual entertainment are doomed to failure? For artists, however, as it turns out, they gained a new face – as an inspiration and artistic medium at the same time, containing a note of sentiment or longing for pop culture in a retro style. Will a similar artistic career happen to, for example, fidget spinners in a few years? We are waiting impatiently for the first creator to come up with this idea.