Perfect Objects: The Lives of Allan McCollum's Work


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Department of Art History


This dissertation is a monographic study of the work of Allan McCollum, one of several contemporary American artists whose practice investigates the significance of producing art within the economic and social contexts of late capitalist commodity culture. Since 1969, McCollum has mobilized the languages and materials of mass culture to create work that critiques and parodies the commoditization of the precious work of art. Yet McCollum himself continues to produce unique art objects, creating a paradoxical working method best described as the serial production of singularity. By arguing that McCollum’s enterprise is best understood as a search for ‘the perfect object’—an object that evokes both the aura of the unique work of art and the democratic availability of the mass-produced commodity—this study cuts through multiple narratives of contemporary art in order to investigate the shifting defintions of the art object as they have developed in postwar America.