It was while travelling in Israel in 2008 that Scott Wiener's attention was first drawn to the beauty of the pizza box. Bright yellow, it struck him as a rainbow compared with the drab clouds of white paperboard he had become accustomed to while growing up in New Jersey. And soon enough, he was noticing interesting pizza takeaway boxes everywhere he went – and collecting them.
"It occurred to me that pizza-box art might be the most under-appreciated medium of our time," he says, in what is surely one of the most effusive displays of love for corrugated cardboard the world will ever know.
Yet, as easy as it is to mock, so it is easy to appreciate where Wiener is coming from. Take the box that Domino's brought out in Japan in March this year (see gallery). The character in the centre is Hatsune Miku, a 16-year-old girl with long turquoise pigtails who already has TV and advertising credits to her name.
Her name derives for the Japanese for "first", "sound" and "future" – which is appropriate, because she was created as a singing humanoid synthesizer application with a built-in sound bank. When paired with a Domino's phone app, Miku performs from atop the box. The limited-edition box was so popular that it sold out in six days.
Not all boxes are as technically advanced, of course, but many that Wiener has collected are impressively innovative. One concept made by the PackToy company, for example, included an 80-piece jigsaw of a Venetian scene as its centrepiece.
Another – Wiener's favourite, which is of Italian origin, though he found it in Amsterdam – carries images that appear to resemble characters from The Simpsons with just enough changes to avoid the lawyers dropping in. "Bart", for instance, sports a goatee and a hat hiding any giveaway spiky follicles, while the "Homer" figure has a full head of hair rather than two strands.
The size of Wiener's collection has been aided by his day-job, giving tours of New York's pizza parlours to hungry tourists – some of whom have sent him back boxes from as countries as far away as Hungary and Turkey.
A friend, meanwhile, learnt the phrase "Can I please have a box without the pizza" in a multitude of languages, to bring him boxes from Ecuador, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. And Wiener himself now plans holidays around visits to pizza-box manufacturers, and confesses even to buying boxes on eBay. And why not? What does he have to lose, after all… Other than his waistline, natch.
'Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box' is published by Melville House, priced £16.99Reuse content