New York Art@Site Dan Colen Mural Design

Dan Colen


Mural Design

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The story of how of Dan Colen landed his first major show at the Gagosian Gallery sounds a bit like an art-world version of one of the Disney tales that sometimes show up in his painting.
One drunken night after an exhibition opening in 2006, Mr. Colen and Sam Orlofsky, a director of the high-powered Gagosian Gallery, found themselves sitting around the artist Cecily Brown’s Manhattan studio. The two men started talking.
'I’d seen his work here and there,' Mr. Orlofsky recalled. 'And I remember friends told me about it, too. The market was on fire back then, with one gallery after another opening in Chelsea every week. Since I knew one day something was going to happen to this guy, I suggested he do a show with us.'
Mr. Colen laughed at the idea, Mr. Orlofsky remembers: 'He said, 'Yeah right, where am I going to show, in the bathrooms?’ Which is precisely what happened.
Mr. Orlofsky persuaded his boss Larry Gagosian to let him put six of Mr. Colen’s paintings — canvases that the artist had found in thrift shops and then embellished to make his own — in the bathrooms of his 24th Street space. Priced from $10,000 to $12,000 apiece, they sold immediately.
Since then, Mr. Orlofsky and Stefan Ratibor, a Gagosian director in London, have been following Mr. Colen’s work closely, visiting his Manhattan studio regularly and making a point of seeing new pieces wherever they have been shown.
But it is not simply his precipitous rise — from showing in the cramped bathrooms of the 24th Street gallery to filling the entire space in just four years in his show that opens Friday — that gives Mr. Colen’s career the quality of a fable.