Allan McCollum: Selected Works

23 MARCH TO 4 JUNE 2022
  • As one of the most influential names in American conceptual art, Allan McCollum has developed his artistic process since the...

    As one of the most influential names in American conceptual art, Allan McCollum has developed his artistic process since the 1970s around transforming the dichotomy of the relationship between producer and receiver. Central to this was the artistic and sociological investigation of the individual within processes of mass production. To that extent, McCollum‘s works are often characterised by an extreme accumulation of individual parts—drawings or sculptural objects—with the aim of transcending such social categorisations as education and class which often divide audiences in their reception.


    This viewing room presents an overview of some of Allan McCollum's most important series of the late 60s to 90s—Constructed Paintings (1969), Bleach Paintings (1969), Perpetual Photos (1982), Plaster Surrogates (1982), Perfect Vehicles (1985), Drawings (1988), and The Dog From Pompei (1990)—as well as a selection of some major work groups conceived over the last twenty years until this very moment.

  • Born in Los Angeles in 1944, Allan McCollum is among the best and most profound American conceptual artists and has...

    Born in Los Angeles in 1944, Allan McCollum is among the best and most profound American conceptual artists and has been represented by Galerie Thomas Schulte for almost 30 years. His works can be seen in the world’s best and most important collections, including MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco MoMA, Centre Pompidou and various others around the world. McCollum has also been honored with numerous international museum exhibitions and catalogues, including in recent years exhibitions at Museum Haus Esters/Haus Lange, Krefeld, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen in Düsseldorf, Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Frankfurt’s Portikus, and Kunsthalle Zurich. 


  • “In a world without mass-produced symbolic objects, we would have little need for the contrary concept of the unique artwork. But in our world, we are always working to protect the integrity of the unique against its debasement by the replica, to make defence against the threat of plenitude by retreating into the solace of scarcity. But if we could come to embrace the mechanisms that drive our passions, and understand these along with the passions that animate our machines maybe then we could begin to look for an art which is both repetitive and expressive, both copy and original, both abundant and precious: an art to embody both the horror and the promise of modern life, without shrinking from either.”
    — Allan McCollum, 1989
  • Until 4 June 2022, Galerie Thomas Schulte presents an exhibition by Allan McCollum with works from the remarkable Constructed Paintings and Bleach Paintings series which are exhibited in the gallery’s main space.
    Read more about Allan McCollum. Works 1970-1973

  • CONSTRUCTED PAINTINGS, Series begun in 1969
    Installation view at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, April 2022


    Series begun in 1969

    The Constructed Paintings are formed from strips or squares of canvas that have been individually dyed and stained and subsequently adjoined using rubberized caulking. The overall appearance suggests a quilt, a mosaic, tiling or brickwork – an architectural quality that highlights the paintings’ built-up nature. Their  constructedness is also perceptible in the thick, raised lines of caulking at the seams and fraying around the edges. In their somewhat messy, unfinalized appearance and piecedtogether approach, their construction not only seems incomplete, but also as though it could continue infinitely.


  • allan mccollum, Deep connections, 1973
  • allan mccollum, If Love Had Wings: a Perpetual Canon, 1972
    • AM 16_034

      Allan McCollum, Canto IV, 1972

    • AM 16_036

      Allan McCollum, Canto V, 1972

  • BLEACH PAINTINGS, Series begun in 1969

    Untitled (Bleach Painting), 1970

    Canvas, dye, bleach

    212.7 × 254 cm | 83 ¾ × 100 in



    Series begun in 1969

    For the Bleach Paintings series, Allan McCollum first dyed the canvases grey, blocked off parts of the surface with masking tape and then poured household bleach over them. Like photographs, they have been mechanically and repetitively produced through a process of exposure. The resulting images are characterized by blank, formless swaths, varying greyscales, interrupted patterns of horizontal lines where remnants of grey dye remain, and uneven framing around the edges. In mostly square, or near-square formats, the irregular, unpolished edges here also mirror the fraying edges of the Constructed Paintings, likewise lending an unfinished appearance. And, though structured and produced systematically, the patterns that emerge in the Bleach Paintings once again differ from canvas to canvas — their idiosyncrasies also resulting from an element of chance.



  • Perpetual Photos, Series begun in 1982
    Installation view at MAMCO Geneva, 2014, Photo: Ilmari Kalkkinen

    Perpetual Photos

    Series begun in 1982

    A snapshot is taken from the television screen when a framed artwork is seen on the wall behind the dramatic action. The Perpetual Photos are these artworks enlarged again to a normal scale and reframed by the artist for re-presentation in a tangible setting. Each Perpetual Photo is completely unique and an endless number of different Perpetual Photos remain to be discovered and produced.



  • Plaster Surrogates, Series begun in 1982

    Plaster Surrogates

    Series begun in 1982

    The Plaster Surrogates stem from Allan McCollum's earlier series of unique works called Surrogate Paintings, which were made from wood and museum board, glued and pressed together and painted all over with several coats of paint. Each Surrogate Painting is unique in size.

    In 1982 rubber molds were taken from selected Surrogate Paintings, and these were used to cast the Plaster Surrogates. The Plaster Surrogates are cast in gypsum and painted.

    Plaster Surrogates with black centers are given different colored mats and frames. Around 20 different sizes of Plaster Surrogates have been painted with around 140 different frame colors, combined with around a dozen different mat colors, which can produce many thousands of unique Plaster Surrogates. The Plaster Surrogates are grouped into collections of many different amounts.

    At first, Plaster Surrogates of all sizes were grouped together and were sold individually. Later on McCollum decided to group them in different ways and to only sell them in predefined groups or collections, for which he would also provide exact installation diagrams.

    The earliest of these collections contained twenty Plaster Surrogates, including one of each size. These groups were established as early as 1983/84. Later on, the artist decided to only use groups with either the four largest sizes (large Plaster Surrogates) or collections with only the smallest sizes.

    The Plaster Surrogates come in two main color schemes, which means collections of Surrogates are comprised either entirely of frames in shades of grey or in shades of brown. For a short time Allan McCollum has also designed groups of monochromatic Surrogates, in which a piece is painted in one solid color (ca. 1988-1990).

  • Perfect Vehicles, Series begun in 1985
    Fifty Perfect Vehicles (1989), installation view at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, 2011

    Perfect Vehicles

    Series begun in 1985

    Allan McCollum first made his Perfect Vehicles in 1985. The standard mode of display for the sculpture was sitting atop a plinth in groups ranging from five to fifty generic cast-plaster vases. The shape of the vase is that of an antique Chinese ginger jar; a shape made ubiquitous by centuries of its reproduction. The Perfect Vehicles come in a range of colors, such that, even though each vase is identical in shape, no two groupings were alike based on quantity and color. Radically dysfunctional (they are solid and could never be used actually to hold anything), they nonetheless perform their domestic role as decoration. In so doing, they conflate the art object proper with its lesser partner, the objet d’art, suggesting that the shared function of the two categories is their presentation of taste and wealth within the domestic interior.


    In subsequent iterations of the Perfect Vehicles, McCollum played with issues of scale. Maintaining the same shape, he enlarged the vases to human scale.  Larger Perfect Vehicles are cast from glass fiber reinforced concrete, and are also painted all over with many coats of paint. Each of the larger Perfect Vehicles is unique in color.


  • Allan McCollum’s part of the PBS TV series “Art in the Twenty-First Century” (October 2009) begins with his uncle Jon Gnagy’s 1950s television program Learn to Draw. Crediting his uncle’s demonstrations as an early influence, McCollum says “whenever I design a project it’s in my head…that I would be able to show someone else how to do it.”

  • Drawings, Series begun in 1988

    Installation view at Haus Esthers, Krefeld, 1993, Photo: Volker Döhne


    Series begun in 1988

    The Drawings are created through using variations of only two basic graphic elements: 90 degree arcs and straight lines. Combinations of these elements are cut into hundreds of different plastic templates which can be paired in many thousands of different ways. The Drawings are produced entirely by hand, using artists' drawing pencils on ragboard. The system of templates is expandable to produce unique Drawings up into the billions, and a simple numerical system is used to insure that no two Drawings are ever exactly alike.

    The Drawings are framed in black, blonde and walnut color, and grouped in Collections of 15, 30, 60, 90, and 120 Drawings.


  • The Dog From Pompei, Series begun in 1990

    The Dog From Pompei

    Series begun in 1990

    The Dog From Pompei casts are taken from a mold which was made from the famous "chained dog" plaster cast in the collection of the Museo Vesuviano, in Pompei, Italy. The original dog was smothered in volcanic ash during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., and its body left a natural mold in the earth after it deteriorated over the centuries. This natural mold was discovered by excavators in 1874, and they produced the original cast by pouring plaster into the cavity, and excavating the resulting cast once it had hardened. The original natural mold was destroyed in the process. The Dog From Pompei casts are produced in polymer-enhanced gypsum.


  • “I think that we all lose out when we all ask our artists to eliminate their feelings about large quantities from their vocabulary of expression just to please a certain exclusive group. And for this reason it’s really important that as artists we should feel free to take a stand on this point by making as many artworks as we want.”
    —Allan McCollum, 1996
  • The Shapes Project, Series begun in 2005

    The Shapes Project

    Series begun in 2005

    The Shapes Project marked a new beginning for Allan McCollum – also within the continued experimenting in a greater distribution of art works. The series is based on a system developed by the artist of combinable silhouette-like components. He can thus, with 300 individual components, produce millions of combinations and ultimately match an individual shape to each living person. Out of these approximately 31 billion shapes, the artist has set aside the potential of 214 million with which to work.


    In the past decade McCollum has experimented with numerous variations and purposes for this vast amount of shapes, including adaptations into artificial marble and laminated plywood sculptures, framed prints, hand cut paper silhouettes, scrollsawed wooden ornaments, copper cookie cutters, rubber stamps and other variations. While always well aware of the fact that the project of constructing all shapes is much too large a task to complete in his own lifetime, he encourages that others in cooperation with him find further use for them and is always interested in collaborating with local artisans and craftspeople.



  • "It's fascinating and touching that people work so hard to build an imminent meaning into things; that they pursue their desire to produce symbolic objects for themselves to keep, and to exchange with others. In our culture, an artwork is an object of this kind; and whatever specific meaning the artist works to put into it, it will always retain its promise as a gift, its destiny as a keepsake. This is the artwork I am interested in making: an object filled with the absence of certain meaning, and yet rich with the quality of meaningfulness in and of itself.”
    — Allan McCollum, 1989
  • An Ongoing Collection of Screengrabs with Reassuring Subtitles

     "Everything is Going to be Ok", exhibition view at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, 2020

    An Ongoing Collection of Screengrabs with Reassuring Subtitles

    Allan McCollum began this project in 2015 as a visual essay about the meaning of closeness and comfort in our society. He wants it to serve as a reminder that it is through the telling and sharing of stories that we perceive the world. It is also a critique of Hollywood and populist rhetoric which both instrumentalize our emotions by promoting the narrative of a hero coming to the rescue, while in reality we depend on being part of a community of family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. All of the screenshots from films and movies amassed by McCollum depict people in situations of great uncertainty and distress being comforted with words of support that spell out in the subtitles. But while anxiety and worry are feelings that are individually and subjectively felt and experienced by all of us, the encouraging phrases on the screen through endless repetition soon become somewhat meaningless.


  • Thomas Schulte speaks about Allan McCollum's installation "Everything is Going to be OK" presented in the gallery’s Corner Space, foyer and Window Space from 23 May through 11 July 2020.