Allan McCollum is a contemporary American artist who was born in Los Angeles, in 1944, and now lives and works in New York City. He has spent over forty years exploring how objects achieve public and personal meaning in a world constituted in mass production, focusing most recently on collaborations with small community historical society museums in different parts of the world. His first solo exhibition was in 1970, and his first New York showing was in an exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1972. In 1975 his work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and he moved to New York City that same year. In the late seventies he became especially well known for his series, Surrogate Paintings.
In 1964 McCollum moved to Essex, England, pursuing the idea of being an actor, and joined a local theater group in Southend-on-Sea; but he changed his mind about a career in theater and returned to California in 1965, moved into a small mobile home park in Venice Beach, California, and attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College for five months, attempting to learn the trade of restaurant management and industrial kitchen work. For two years, he worked for Trans World Airlines at the Los Angeles International Airport, preparing meals for flights, but in 1967 he decided to educate himself as an artist. He learned quickly, influenced initially by reading the writings of the Fluxus artists and the early structuralists, and found a job as a truck driver and crate-builder for an art handling company in West Hollywood. Through this job he met many artists, art dealers, art collectors, and museum curators, learning much about the contemporary art world. In 1970, McCollum established a studio in a converted parking garage in Venice Beach, where he lived and worked until 1975. During these years, he exhibited his work regularly at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery and also at the Claire S. Copley Gallery, both in Los Angeles. His work was featured in a number of museum group exhibitions, including shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Pasadena Art Museum, the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum, the San Francisco Art Institute, the Seattle Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Krannert Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In late 1975, he moved to the SoHo district of New York City, where he lives today.