John -- Colin de Land, Art Dealer Who Fostered Experimentation, Dies at 47 -- 03.19.03
Colin de Land, Art Dealer Who Fostered Experimentation, Dies at 47
By ROBERTA SMITH
Colin de Land, a New York art dealer whose ambivalence about commercialism
was reflected in an art gallery that sometimes resembled an anti-art
gallery, if not a work of Conceptual Art, died on Sunday at Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Hospital. He was 47.
The cause was cancer, said Dennis Balk, an artist represented by Mr. de
Land's gallery, American Fine Arts.
With little display of exertion or financial solvency, Mr. de Land oversaw
galleries in different art neighborhoods for nearly 20 years. He was known
for his relaxed work habits and even more relaxed art installations, which
did not all open on time, as well as an insistent sartorial style that
presaged the "white trash" look. At times he exhibited fictive artists, like
John Dogg, whose work was widely assumed, but never confirmed, to have been
made by Mr. de Land and the artist Richard Prince.
Mr. de Land was born in Union City, N.J. He attended New York University,
studying philosophy and linguistics. He backed into art dealing when, while
living on the Lower East Side, he offered to sell a Warhol painting for a
neighbor who needed money for drugs.
In the heyday of the East Village art scene in the early 1980's, he had a
gallery called Vox Populi in a former butcher shop on East Sixth Street. But
he had his greatest impact after he relocated to the relatively quiet,
southwest area of SoHo in 1988 and evolved American Fine Arts, a gallery
that functioned as an art world laboratory, hangout and refuge.
In largely unrenovated spaces at 40 and then 22 Wooster Street, he gave
shows of cutting-edge artists whose interests ranged from large-scale
installation to institutional critique to video to abstract painting. They
included Cady Noland, Jessica Stockholder, Mariko Mori, Alex Bag, Mr. Balk
and Peter Fend. He also showed work by the filmmaker John Waters and by Art
Club 2000, a collective formed by students at the School of Visual Arts that
included Daniel McDonald, who became the gallery's director in 1993.
Once in the mid-90's when Mr. de Land's fortunes were at an usually low ebb,
he held a benefit at and for the gallery. More than 200 artists donated
work, including many who had no previous affiliation with him.
Mr. de Land took over the Chelsea space of his wife, Pat Hearn, after she
died in 2000, also of cancer. The events he staged there included a raucous,
decidedly non-Chelsean performance by the women from a band called the
Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, led by the performance artist Kembra
Pfahler, his companion. In addition to Ms. Pfahler, he is survived by his
mother, Aleta de Land Hamada of Union City.
Mr. de Land disdained consistency. He allowed one artist to close the
gallery for a month to protest art commercialization, but he also taught a
course for art collectors and helped found the New York Armory Show, which
fills two piers on the Hudson River every year. His booth in this year's
fair, which opens tomorrow, will feature walls that spell out his gallery's
initials, A.F.A., mimicking the unaccountably restrained typography of his