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.
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).
In 2009, Theaster Gates purchased a vacant building on the 6900 block of South Dorchester Avenue, and turned it into a library. As the project developed, it would become known as the Dorchester Projects, with Gates acquiring other buildings to create social spaces centred on culture, such as Black House Cinema, which hosts screenings and...
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.
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).
Behind the grand wrought-iron doors of Gropius Bau's first floor gallery, Chicago artist Theaster Gates presents the legacy of Johnson Publishing Company in an archival photo exhibition honouring the power behind images of black female beauty and culture in post-war America.
Bruce Nauman, 'Disappearing Acts'Schaulager17 March – 26 AugustThe Schaulager enjoys immense resources; its founder, Maja Oeri, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a major donor to its collection, is honoured with a MoMA gallery in her name. Bruce Nauman's detailed survey exhibition, created in collaboration with that New York...
ArtAsiaPacific sat down with artist and urban planner Theaster Gates for an exclusive interview about his latest exhibition at White Cube, Hong Kong. Gates discussed his objective of using unconventional means to read artworks, and described how roofing techniques opened up new ways of making art.