Scanlan, who previously was on faculty at Yale, served as assistant director of the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, a contemporary art museum specializing in radical, conceptual and installation-based artworks. He has received numerous awards and fellowships from organizations including the Creative Capital Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale. A native of Ohio, he holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design.
He has presented his work throughout the United States and Europe, mounting 19 solo exhibitions in the past decade. Scanlan has shown his work at K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westphalen in Düsseldorf, Germany; Institut d'Art Contemporain in Villeurbanne, France; the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands; the IKON Gallery in Birmingham, England; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; and the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany. He also has participated in biennials in Sydney, Shanghai, Sharjah, the Baltic States and Toulouse, as well as group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco; Documenta IX in Germany; the ICA in London; and the Aperto in Venice.
In addition to his extraordinary exhibition record, Scanlan is equally acclaimed as an art critic and distinguished author who has published more than 50 articles and reviews in leading international periodicals including Artforum, Art issues, Frieze and Parkett.
Scanlan is the holder of U.S. patent no. 6,488,732 for a process of converting postconsumer waste into viable potting soil. The concept premiered with an exhibition of three tons of the material with a shovel planted in the middle of it at the IKON Gallery in Birmingham, England, and currently is in commercial development.