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Colin de Land collection, 1968-2008, bulk 1980-2003

Colin de Land collection, 1968-2008, bulk 1980-2003

de Land, Colin, 1955-2003


Collection Information

Size: 15.6 linear feet

Summary: The Colin de Land collection measures 15.6 linear feet and dates from 1968 to 2008, with the bulk of the collection dating from the early 1980s through 2003. The majority of the collection consists of photographic material, primarily snapshots, documenting daily life in and around de Land's gallery American Fine Arts, Co., as well as de Land's pesonal life and affairs. There are candid photographs of exhibition openings, day-to-day gallery operations, art fairs, vacations, social gatherings, and New York City street scenes. Also included are some personal objects belonging to de Land and his wife Pat Hearn, as well as two scrapbooks containing items once decorating the walls of de Land's office at American Fine Arts. The collection includes film and video material documenting trips to Cape Cod, Hearn's illness, and occasional art world events.

The bulk of the collection consists of snapshots, along with their negatives and the envelopes provided by commercial photographic printers. The envelopes are sometimes annotated. The photographs, not typically identified by photographer, were taken by de Land, Hearn, and gallery employees, artists, and visitors. Most of the snapshots provide a candid record of life within de Land's circle, and not formal documentation of gallery exhibitions.

The figures in this collection often occupied blurred boundaries between artist, gallery employee, critic, and friend. Many of the photographs include AFA staff, including Daniel McDonald, Patterson Beckwith, and Craig Wadlin. Also of note are photos showing AFA artists, including John Waters, Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, Moyra Davey, Dennis Balk, Peter Fend, and Jack Pierson.

In addition to life within the gallery, de Land's cameras also documented a larger art world of the era, candidly showing openings at other galleries, art fairs such as Art Basel, Art Cologne, and the Berlin Artforum, as well as festivals including the Venice Biennale and Documenta, many of which included AFA artists. There is some documentation of the Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair and The Armory Show. The photographs frequently include de Land and Hearn's friends and fellow art dealers Paul Morris, Matthew Marks, and Carol Greene. Some images include artists that showed at Pat Hearn Art Gallery, such as Mary Heilmann. Collectors, celebrity visitors to the gallery, and critics also occasionally appear in the photographs. There is one 1968 photograph of de Land's mother and a small number of 1970s images of both de Land and Hearn.

In addition to the snapshots, there are a variety of other photographic formats in the collection. The contents of the slides are of similar nature to the snapshots. The contact sheet binders offer some formal exhibition installation documentation, but are not exhaustive.

The collection also includes film and video footage. Thirty-five reels of Super-8 motion picture film primarily documents frequent vacations to Cape Cod, as well as the final stages of Hearn's illness and subsequent death. The 31 DV-mini cassettes include similar content, and some footage of opening receptions and other art world events.

Two scrapbooks include material that was often photographed on the walls surrounding de Land's desk at AFA. Additional artifacts include one small painting by artist Charles Clough, inscribed to Hearn, a baseball hat frequently worn by de Land and appearing in many of the snapshots, and one page of an autographed calendar.

Biographical/Historical Note

Colin de Land (1955-2003) was a New York art dealer whose galleries in the East Village, SoHo, and Chelsea promoted cutting-edge artists with interests ranging from institutional critique to video to abstract painting. De Land's American Fine Arts gallery on Wooster Street in particular became a staging ground and refuge for figures in the alternative art world, with de Land acting as ringmaster and provocateur. Mr. de Land took over the Chelsea space of his wife, Pat Hearn, after she died in 2000, where he staged a notorious performance by the band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black led by the performance artist Kembra Pfahler, who became his companion. Mr. de Land studied philosophy and linguistics at New York University and helped found the New York Armory Show.


The papers were donated in 2008 by Dennis Balk, an artist at the American Fine Arts gallery and a close friend of de Land's.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Colin de Land Collection, 1968-2008, bulk 1980-2003, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Colin de Land (1955-2003) was a gallery owner whose New York City spaces challenged traditional modes of exhibition and art dealing.
Raised in Union City, New Jersey, de Land came to the art world from an academic background, having studied philosophy and linguistics at New York University. In 1984, de Land opened Vox Populi, a largely unrenovated space in the East Village, at 511 East 6th Street. The gallery showed experimental work by emerging artists, including the enigmatic John Dogg, thought to be a collaboration between de Land and artist Richard Prince.
In 1986, De Land opened his longest standing gallery, American Fine Arts, Co. (AFA), in the same space previously occupied by Vox Populi. The gallery moved to SoHo in 1988, first to 40 Wooster Street then to 22 Wooster Street in 1993. During the late 1990s, as most SoHo galleries moved to Chelsea, AFA remained a mainstay of the downtown arts scene. De Land's wife, Pat Hearn, whom he married in 1999 after over a decade together, was also a well known art dealer. Her gallery, Pat Hearn Art Gallery, also moved from the East Village to SoHo, later becoming one of the first to set down roots in Chelsea.
Known for his eccentric fashion and unorthodox business style, de Land cultivated a culture of experimentation within the AFA community. He typically hired young art students or recent graduates, often nurturing their own artistic careers. Along with a group of Cooper Union graduates, many of whom worked at the gallery, he founded the artist collective Art Club 2000. De Land often showed artists working in hybrid media, for example film and photography or music and installation. He was especially interested in ecological and environmental art, as well as work that took as its subject exhibition practice and the act of creating art. He often staged large thematic group shows. Artists who showed at the gallery included Mark Dion, John Waters, Andrea Fraser, Moyra Davey, Dennis Balk, Peter Fend, Tom Burr, James Welling, Mariko Mori, Dan Graham, Jessica Stockholder, Alex Bag, Christian Philipp Muller, and Jack Pierson.
In 1994, de Land and Hearn, along with gallerists Matthew Marks and Paul Morris, established the Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair. Fashioned after the tradition of inexpensive hotel art fairs, four galleries were invited to exhibit artwork in rooms of the Gramercy Park Hotel, to be sold in a
cash and carry
model. The fair became an annual event, branching out to other cities, including Miami and Los Angeles, and growing significantly in size in New York. It later became known as The Armory Show.
De Land often carried a point-and-shoot camera and kept several on hand in the gallery. He documented opening receptions, art world social gatherings, concerts, and day-to-day happenings and invited visitors to the gallery and employees to do the same.
After Hearn's death from liver cancer in 2000, de Land became involved with Kembra Pfahler, the performance artist and leader of the rock band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. De Land took over Hearn's Chelsea gallery, operating it as a second location of AFA. Following his own struggle with cancer, de Land passed away in 2003. AFA remained open, closing at the end of 2004 with a tribute group exhibition to de Land.
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged in 4 series:
Series 1: Photographic Material, 1968-2003, bulk 1980-2003 (14 linear feet; Box 1-14)
Series 2: Scrapbooks, circa 1980s-2003 (0.2 linear feet; Box 19)
Series 3: Video and Film Recordings, circa 1980-2003 (1.1 linear feet; Box 15, 16, 18)
Series 4: Artifacts, 1988-2008 (0.3 linear feet; Box 14, 17, 19)
The papers were donated in 2008 by Dennis Balk, an artist at the American Fine Arts gallery and a close friend of de Land's.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to an intermediate level by graduate intern Kate Phillips in 2012. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original material requires an appointment.

Audio visual material: ACCESS RESTRICTED; use requires written permission.

How to Cite This Collection

Colin de Land collection, 1968-2008, bulk 1980-2003. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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