Allan McCollum. Three Perfect Vehicles,1988/2004. Acrylic latex paint on glass fiber reinforced concrete. 80 x 36 inches each.





For more than 30 years, artist Allan McCollum has been engaged in a complex conceptual examination of what we expect from art and archeological objects, observing the way in which a simple thing—a painting or a photograph or even a fossilized dinosaur bone—makes the journey from object to icon to symbol.

Now, for the first time in more than a decade, McCollum returns to his signature series, Perfect Vehicles, creating three new sculptures for Doris C. Freedman Plaza. McCollum began making his first Perfect Vehicles in 1985, presenting and representing an iconic sculptural form in order to investigate the ways in which a single object can contain cultural meaning. All of the Perfect Vehicle sculptures bear the same shape—that of a Chinese ginger jar, a traditional vessel that has been extensively copied and reproduced for centuries. His earliest works in the series were just over a foot-and-a-half tall, and in 1988 he scaled them up to the size of the trio of Perfect Vehicles presented here. Each sculpture is thickly painted in a different hue of commercially available paint and has no opening, utterly eliminating the typical use—value that one might expect of a vase.

Presented singly or in groups, McCollum’s Perfect Vehicles invite a range of associations: they look like something you might find in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Asian Art department or in the storefront windows of Tiffany & Co., but they could also be behemoth chess pieces or cartoon abstractions of an English bobby. It's just this ambiguity that is of interest to McCollum, and each reiteration brings a new layer of interpretation. Over the years, the Perfect Vehicles have been shown in white box galleries, on the steps of museums, and, in 1988, in a single row throughout the cavernous interior of the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale. For this exhibition, the Perfect Vehicles stand at the corner of Central Park, in close proximity to Grand Army Plaza and dozens of traditional statues and memorials.

McCollum came of age as an artist in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Minimalism reached its height as an art movement. The Perfect Vehicles represent his questioning of the Minimalist notion that an artwork can be reduced to “the thing in itself”—that is, that a sculpture or a painting could simply be an object, instead of symbolizing or referring to something else. The Perfect Vehicles—which McCollum describes as “an homage to the idea of one thing standing for another”—are a celebration of the way that we look for meaning in the objects that surround us, and then use them as vehicles to express our own ideas.


ABOUT THE ARTIST Allan McCollum was born in Los Angeles, California in 1944 and currently lives and works in New York. Mid-career retrospectives of his work have been mounted at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Lille, France (1998); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany (1995-96); and the Serpentine Gallery, London (1990). His work has appeared in major international festivals including The 1991 Carnegie International at The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1991) and the 43rd Venice Biennale (1988). An exhibition of McCollum’s photographs and drawings will be on view at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York through October 2, 2004.



Public Art Fund is New York’s leading organizer of artists’ projects, new commissions, installations and exhibitions in public spaces. With 25 years of experience and an international reputation, the Public Art Fund identifies, coordinates and realizes a diversity of major projects by both established and emerging artists in New York City. By bringing artworks outside the traditional context of museums and galleries, the Public Art Fund provides a unique platform for an unparalleled public encounter with the art of our time.

The Public Art Fund is a non-profit arts organization supported by generous contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations, and with public funds from The New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs.

This exhibition is made possible through the cooperation of New York City / Parks & Recreation, The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York and The Honorable Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, City of New York / Parks & Recreation.