No man's De Land

The art world tries to carry on a legacy.

Colin de Land

Photograph: Courtesy powerHouse Books

Legendary New York gallerist Colin de Land (1956–2003) inspired devotion by championing experimental work (like allowing artist Gareth James to close the dealer’s gallery, American Fine Arts, for a month to protest the art world’s focus on money). While no one dealer today fills his shoes, his followers are out there shaping the scene.

In 2001, Peter Nesbett and Shelly Bancroft founded Harlem nonprofit Triple Candie. The couple (whose controversial “David Hammons: The Unauthorized Retrospective” featured photocopies of the artist’s work) says they focus on how institutions affect the perception of art, questioning the establishment the way De Land did.

“I think about De Land almost daily,” says artist Austin Thomas, who last summer started Pocket Utopia. Open twice weekly, the gallery is a hangout for area artists, much as De Land’s LES space was.

At Orchard, the “shows” are as likely to consist of seminars as art. “We started with a desire to fill the void left by Colin and [his wife] Pat [Hearn],” says the gallery’s director, R.H. Quaytman. A three-year project, Orchard will close in May. Here’s hoping another idealist venture takes its place.

For more, check out the brand-new book Colin de Land: American Fine Arts, edited by Dennis Balk.

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  • Q&A with Glenn Lowry, MoMA Director: Crazy about our city’s most renowned modern-art museum? Here’s the guy to thank. (You can also thank him for that $20 admission fee.)
  • Curators' calendar: Whitney Biennial cocurators Henriette Huldisch and Shamim M. Momin