Allan Bridge (February 14, 1945 – August 5, 1995) was an American conceptual artist best known for his creation in 1980 of the confessional phone system known as the Apology Line. He went by the pseudonym Mr. Apology (a label which has since been adopted by an advice columnist) and used new technology of the time, an answering machine, to record confessions from anonymous callers.
Born in Falls Church, Virginia, Bridge attended the University of Chicago, where he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts. Returning to the Washington, D. C. area, he became one of the second generation of artists of the Washington Color School movement.
For a series of large-scale paintings, he used poured paint techniques and then moved on to geometric abstraction. He was championed and collected by Gene Baro, at one time the director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Bridge exhibited at the Corcoran and many other galleries in the 1970s. He created at least 79 paintings in the years spanning 1970 to 1977. Bridge married Elinor Schiele in 1977, and they divorced in 1981.
Eventually, Bridge tired of the visual image and began making interactive machines with moral implications. The most famous best known of these is Crime Time, where the viewer spins a wheel of chance and either gets away with a "crime" by receiving a marble from the machine, or she gets "caught" and her hand is held in a lock for 30 seconds. From Crime Time, the next jump for his restless mind was the Apology Line, created after he moved to Manhattan in 1977.
Bridge sold rights for a film and novel. Mr. Apology by Campbell Black was published by Ballantine Books in 1984, and this was adapted by screenwriter Mark Medoff for the HBO thriller, Apology (1986). The film switched the sex of the conceptual artist from male to female (portrayed by Lesley Ann Warren).
In 1993, Bridge was the subject of a long article, "The Confession," by Alec Wilkinson, published in the October 4, 1993, issue of The New Yorker. Wilkinson's article was reprinted a decade later in Mr. Apology and Other Essays (Houghton Mifflin, 2003). He died on August 5, 1995.
Some confessions taped from the Apology phone calls were published in Apology, a magazine edited and published by Bridge. The last issue was published January 1996. After investigating the notion of bringing the Apology Project to the online service GEnie, he was working on a book about the Apology Line and making plans in 1995 to expand the Apology confessions to the Internet.
In 1989, his second wife, Marissa Bridge, founded Marissa Bridge Studios, which became one of New York's leading decorative painting and restoration companies, with offices in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Active in boating and scuba diving, Bridge was diving in August 1995, when he was killed by a hit-and-run jet skier. Lydia Nibley wrote about this in her essay "All Apologies" (December 16, 2004):[excessive quote]
Several passages about Bridge and jet skis are scattered throughout The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise by Garret Keizer.
A bank of phone booths were installed for Bridge's 1981 show at the New Museum, enabling guests to pick up the phones and listen directly to the original Apology Line tapes.
The film Apology won the Audience Award at the 1987 Cognac Festival du Film Policier, and that same year it won a CableACE Award for Maurice Jarre's music score.