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This sandwich will likely cost thousands of dollars — but you can’t actually eat it, because it’s art

Artist Justin Richel will create a smaller version of his sandwich sculpture, “Tall Order,” for the winner of an auction at MassArt on Saturday.Justin Richel

This is no $5 footlong.

If you want to get your hands on a multilayered sandwich created by artist Justin Richel, you’ll have to be willing to cough up a decent chunk of cash.

And while you won’t actually be able to eat what he makes, the proceeds for its purchase will go to a worthy cause.

Richel, a former New England resident and Maine College of Art graduate, is selling an approximately 3-foot-tall sandwich made of silicone and other materials for the Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s MassArt Auction.

His unique sculpture is one of hundreds of pieces — nine of which are commissioned, including Richel’s — for sale during the live and silent auction at the school’s Design and Media Center Atrium on Saturday, April 27.


Richel’s piece will be made-to-order for the highest bidder at the event, and will probably sell for thousands of dollars. (The opening bid is $5,400, and the work is valued at around $7,000.)

The winner can choose between a “Spicy Chicken Sandwich,” a “Sausage Egg and Cheese,” or a “Bologna and Cheese” to be created by Richel at a later date.

Once it’s completed — a process that could take up to four months, Richel said — it will resemble previous sandwich towers that he’s constructed, including the one in his studio called “Tall Order,” which measures 9 feet tall.

Richel’s assembled artworks look a bit like something someone might order at the counter of a pizza shop, with layer upon layer of bread stuffed with meat and toppings.

But instead of food, each part of the repeating stacks of sandwiches are fabricated from special materials and custom molds.

“Each slice of bread is separate, each piece of cheese is separate, each tomato is a separate piece,” Richel said. “It’s cast in urethane plastic and silicone, and then painted in acrylic paint.”


Richel, who lives in New Mexico, said his food-inspired artwork is an homage to early modernism — with a bit of a personal twist, of course.

“I actually have a deep love for that kind of work,” he said. “But for some reason, when I go to create a work of my own, I have a trickster element to me where I can’t take something too seriously, so I inject humor into it.”

Hence the rubbery, pliable, and squishy elements of his lofty sandwich sculptures, he said.

When asked what message his artwork is meant to convey, Richel said that for him, the sandwich towers are representative of things such as consumerism or human excess.

“Not so much about wasting, but that feeling of hunger that never really goes away,” he said. “For me, it’s this repetition, and through the repetition it creates this abstraction.”

Each year, MassArt puts out a call for artwork for the auction and receives around 1,000 submissions, according to the school.

Richel said he was humbled to have his work be part of the auction because the money raised goes toward funding scholarships and other programs for MassArt students.

“I'm just happy to support these scholarships,” Richel said. “This is an opportunity I would have loved to have in my own life as a student.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.