Allan McCollum

Allan McCollum was born in Los Angeles in 1944. In his twenties, McCollum briefly considered a career in theater and then attended trade school to study restaurant management and industrial kitchen work. In the late 1960s, he began to educate himself as an artist. Applying strategies of mass production to handmade objects, McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time.

Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect—as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, composed of subtly different, distinct things. Engaging assistants, scientists, and local craftspeople in his process, McCollum embraces a collaborative and democratic form of creativity. His drawings and sculptures often serve a symbolic purpose—as surrogates, faithful copies, or stand-ins for people—and are presented theatrically, transforming the exhibition space into a laboratory where artifice and context are scrutinized. Economical in form, yet curious in function, his work and mechanical-looking processes are infused with humor and humility.

Allan McCollum has had more than one-hundred solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States, where his work has appeared in major exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2009); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (most recently in 2007); and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2004); among others. He has also participated in many international exhibitions, including the Bienal de São Paulo (2008). Recent solo exhibitions include Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York (2009); Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston (2008); and Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2006); among others. Allan McCollum lives and works in New York.

Artist’s website

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Teaching with Contemporary Art

Cultivating Collections

Choice-based Art21 Educator, Maureen Hergott explains how she uses collections in the classroom to inspire creativity in her students.


In Charge of His Own Destiny

What prompted Allan McCollum to become an artist? In this interview, conducted in 2009 at his New York City studio, McCollum reflects on his path and the many different influences along the way, from his famous uncle to post-war mass production to science fiction.