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b. 1973, USA

Theaster Gates Biography

Theaster Gates is an American conceptual artist who works at the intersection of urban planning, object-making and performance. He was born in Chicago, where he still lives and works.

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Much of Gates' work is characterised by the use of discarded everyday materials deeply rooted in African American history and culture, such as tar, fire hoses and shoeshine stands. In his iconic 'Civil Tapestry' series, the artist sourced strips of decommissioned fire hoses from his neighbourhood in Chicago and composed them into abstract paintings. These works allude to the fire hoses used to subdue protestors who were marching as part of the ongoing struggles for African American civil rights during the 1963 Children's Crusade civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama.

Gates is committed to blurring the lines between art and community activism. He founded Rebuild Foundation—a non-profit organisation focused on culturally driven redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities. The Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative (DA+HC) and the Stony Island Arts Bank are the most ambitious and celebrated among the projects initiated and run by the foundation. Having achieved enormous impact rehabilitating the long-downtrodden neighbourhoods on Chicago's South Side, these projects established Gates as one of the most fast-rising stars in the international art world.

For DA+HC, Gates restored dilapidated buildings and transformed them into alternative cultural institutions, houses and meeting spaces. In 2013, Gates convinced the city of Chicago to sell him the Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank Building, days before its scheduled demolition, in exchange for a commitment to reactivate the space with art and culture. Serving as 'a repository for African American culture', as Gates described in a press release, the building now houses a precious archive of books, vinyl records and artefacts representing the legacy of the local community. Both projects are part of what the artist described to Art in America as a 'circular ecological system', since they are financed by the sale of artworks created with the raw materials salvaged from the derelict architectures.

Gates' socially-engaged practice is fundamental to his oeuvre. In an interview with Ocula Magazine in 2017, Gates reflected, 'The silos between art and the social are contrived. ... The work I do is one work, one impulse, one imperative, one permission, different forms. It is always about affect, intention and aesthetics.' He has received numerous awards, including the Nasher Prize (2018), the Kurt Schwitters Prize (2017) and Artes Mundi 6 (2015).

Sophia Bingqin Cao | Ocula | 2017

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Social Works Curated by Antwaun Sargent, Gagosian, 555 West 24th Street, New York (24 June–11 September 2021). Courtesy Gagosian. Photo: Rob McKeever. 

Theaster Gates Featured Artworks

American Tapestry by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork
Theaster GatesAmerican Tapestry, 2019Decommissioned fire hose and wood
152.4 x 297.2 x 10.2 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Whyte Painting (NGGRWR 0019) by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork
Theaster GatesWhyte Painting (NGGRWR 0019), 2010Porcelain, composite gold, wood
66 x 81.2 x 12.7 cm
Mendes Wood DM Contact Gallery
Bronze (Africa) by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork
Theaster GatesBronze (Africa), 2016Bronze with tar
198.1 x 144.8 x 13.3 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Bronze with Stripe by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork
Theaster GatesBronze with Stripe, 2016Bronze with tar
174 x 175.3 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Black Madonna by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork
Theaster GatesBlack Madonna, 2018Bronze with tar
148.6 x 66.7 x 54 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Strata Poem in Red by Theaster Gates contemporary artwork
Theaster GatesStrata Poem in Red, 2018129 x 277 x 28 cm White Cube Contact Gallery

Theaster Gates Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Theaster Gates Represented By

Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian New York, Athens, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Le Bourget, Geneva, Basel, Rome, Hong Kong
White Cube contemporary art gallery in Mason's Yard, London, United Kingdom White Cube Hong Kong, London, New York, Aspen, Paris

Theaster Gates In Ocula Magazine

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Theaster Gates In Related Press

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8 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From Toronto to São Paulo and Beyond Related Press 8 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From Toronto to São Paulo and Beyond 3 February 2020, Surface

Construção When: Feb. 6–Mar. 21 Where: Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo What: Though this exhibition takes its name from Brazilian singer Chico Buarque’s storied 1971 song, which tells the tale of a construction worker who dies on the job, the gallery emphasises in an accompanying text that it does not intend to dwell on that troubled era of the...

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Your Concise Los Angeles Art Guide for Fall 2019 Related Press Your Concise Los Angeles Art Guide for Fall 2019 10 September 2019, Hyperallergic

Below you'll find a fun mix of museum and gallery shows, performances, and film screenings taking place over the next few months in the greater Los Angeles area. We know how hard it is to keep track of all that's going on, so we've compiled some of the events that stood out to us and organized them according to theme and type. We're hoping...

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Preview Art Basel 2019 Related Press Preview Art Basel 2019 7 June 2019, ARTnews

Art Basel 2019 opens to the public on Thursday, June 13, with two preview days, on June 11 and 12. Some 290 galleries from 34 countries will show work at the Swiss fair, which runs through June 16.

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Gagosian to go off-piste with first pop-up show during Art Basel Related Press Gagosian to go off-piste with first pop-up show during Art Basel 4 June 2019, The Art Newspaper

Last year, Gagosian introduced an innovative virtual online viewing room during Art Basel. This year, the gallery is creating another sales platform during the Swiss fair, this time taking a bricks and mortar approach with an off-site pop-up exhibition titled Continuing Abstraction (10—16 June).

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