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Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates and the Black Monks performing at St. Laurence Church in Chicago, during the demolition of the building, 2014 Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Sara Pooley

Theaster Gates and the Black Monks performing at St. Laurence Church in Chicago, during the demolition of the building, 2014

Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Sara Pooley

Theaster Gates, 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, 2012 Installation view, Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany, 2012© Theaster Gates. Photo: Nils Klinger

Theaster Gates, 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, 2012

Installation view, Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany, 2012
© Theaster Gates. Photo: Nils Klinger

Theaster Gates, Rickshaw for Black Bricks, 2013 © Theaster Gates. Images: Marc Tatti

Theaster Gates, Rickshaw for Black Bricks, 2013

© Theaster Gates. Images: Marc Tatti

Theaster Gates, The George Black House, 2016 Installation view, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2016© Theaster Gates. Image: Ian LeFebvre.

Theaster Gates, The George Black House, 2016

Installation view, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2016
© Theaster Gates. Image: Ian LeFebvre.

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Black Archive, KUB Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, April 23–June 26, 2016 Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Markus Tretter © Kunsthaus Bregenz

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Black Archive, KUB Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, April 23–June 26, 2016

Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Markus Tretter © Kunsthaus Bregenz

Theaster Gates, True Value, 2016 (detail) Installation view, Fondazione Prada, Milan, 2016© Theaster Gates. Photo: © Delfino Sisto Legnani Studio, courtesy Fondazione Prada

Theaster Gates, True Value, 2016 (detail)

Installation view, Fondazione Prada, Milan, 2016
© Theaster Gates. Photo: © Delfino Sisto Legnani Studio, courtesy Fondazione Prada

Theaster Gates, Black Vessel for a Saint, 2017 Brick, granite, Cor-Ten steel, concrete, and statue of St. Laurence covered with roofing membrane, 280 × 192 inches (711.2 × 487.7 cm), permanently installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden© Theaster Gates Photo: Gene Pittman, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Theaster Gates, Black Vessel for a Saint, 2017

Brick, granite, Cor-Ten steel, concrete, and statue of St. Laurence covered with roofing membrane, 280 × 192 inches (711.2 × 487.7 cm), permanently installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
© Theaster Gates Photo: Gene Pittman, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Theaster Gates, A Flag for the Least of Them, 2018 Decommissioned fire hose, 59 ⅞ × 84 ⅝ inches (152 × 215 cm)© Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates, A Flag for the Least of Them, 2018

Decommissioned fire hose, 59 ⅞ × 84 ⅝ inches (152 × 215 cm)
© Theaster Gates

Installation view, The Black Image Corporation, Fondazione Prada, Milano Osservatorio, Milan, September 20, 2018–January 14, 2019 Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti, courtesy Fondazione Prada, Milan

Installation view, The Black Image Corporation, Fondazione Prada, Milano Osservatorio, Milan, September 20, 2018–January 14, 2019

Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti, courtesy Fondazione Prada, Milan

Theaster Gates, So Bitter, This Curse of Darkness, 2019 Installation view, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2019© Theaster Gates. Photo: Chris Strong

Theaster Gates, So Bitter, This Curse of Darkness, 2019

Installation view, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2019
© Theaster Gates. Photo: Chris Strong

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, February 20–May 12, 2019 Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Chris Strong

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, February 20–May 12, 2019

Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Chris Strong

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 2019–January 12, 2020 Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Bobby Rogers, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 2019–January 12, 2020

Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Bobby Rogers, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 2019–January 12, 2020 Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Bobby Rogers, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 2019–January 12, 2020

Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Bobby Rogers, courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

About

My body is capital, my brain is capital, my hands are capital, and the byproducts of my hands are capital. And once I understand my own value, I think about spatial value, the value of other people, the value of people working together, the possibility of exponential value as a result of certain kinds of bodies rubbing up against each other.
—Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates has incubated new models for artistic creation, social transformation, and building legacies. Traversing a vast array of methodologies encompassing sculpture, performance, and archives, he explores concepts of value and economy, as well as spiritual and material exchange, as they perform in charged social contexts.

Gates first began to work with clay at Iowa State University, Ames, where he received a BS in 1996. After graduating, he studied pottery in Tokoname, Japan, before receiving an MA in fine arts and religious studies from the University of Cape Town in 1998 and an MA in urban planning from Iowa State in 2006. These seemingly disparate interests came together in Gates’s oeuvre as early as 2007, in Plate Convergence at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. For this performance piece, Gates organized a dinner party themed on a fictional tale of a cultural collaboration between a Black family and a Japanese ceramicist.

In 2010 Gates created the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit platform targeting neighborhood regeneration, community arts programming, and cultural development in Chicago. Many of the foundation’s initiatives have focused on revitalizing Chicago’s South Side—creating hubs and archives for Black culture that catalyze discussions about race, equality, space, and history. Two years later, at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, Gates expanded this redemptive urban initiative into a transatlantic correspondence with 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, in which two derelict nineteenth-century buildings—one in Kassel, the other in Chicago—underwent a mutual transmutation, whereby parts of each were reused in the rebuilding of the other, and the resulting spaces were consecrated with live performance.

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Theaster Gates

Photo: Julien Faure/Paris Match/Getty Images

Theaster Gates in his studio

Theaster Gates: Black Vessel

Join Theaster Gates in his studio as he prepares for his upcoming exhibition at Gagosian, New York, this fall. In this video, shot entirely on location in Chicago during the recent tumultuous weeks, Gates reflects on the metaphorical power of materials and process, and on the redemptive potential of art.

The inside of Theaster Gates’s Black Vessel for a Saint sculpture

How to Renew the Color of Bricks

Social historian Chris Dingwall reflects on Theaster Gates’s engagement with the history of quotidian materials, focusing on the symbolic qualities and function of his brick-based sculpture.

Anselm Kiefer, Volkszählung (Census), 1991, steel, lead, glass, peas, and photographs, 163 ⅜ × 224 ½ × 315 inches (4.1 × 5.7 × 8 m)/

Cast of Characters

James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.

Theaster Gates, Paris, 2019.

Theaster Gates: Amalgam

Theaster Gates’s exhibition Amalgam explores the social histories of migration and interracial relations by highlighting the specific history of the Maine island of Malaga. Here, William Whitney considers the exhibition in relation to Gates’s ongoing art practices and social commitments.

Cover of the Winter 2019 Gagosian Quarterly, featuring a selection from a black-and-white Christopher Wool photograph

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2019

The Winter 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a selection from Christopher Wool’s Westtexaspsychosculpture series on its cover.

Thelma Golden and David Adjaye.

The Studio Museum in Harlem

Established in 1968, the Studio Museum in Harlem has served as a crucial institution in the development, presentation, and promotion of artists of African descent. With the museum now preparing for the construction of a new home, Gagosian’s Mark Francis spoke with Thelma Golden, director and chief curator, and Sir David Adjaye OBE, the project’s principal architect, about the building plans and the centrality of artists in their collaboration.

Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019

The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.

Theaster Gates: Slate Wall Drawing

Behind the Art
Theaster Gates: Slate Wall Drawing

Theaster Gates’s exhibition Amalgam at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, features some of the artist’s slate wall drawings. Watch as Gates creates one of these works in this time-lapse video, featuring music by Theaster Gates and the Black Monks.

(RED) Auction 2018

(RED) Auction 2018

Theaster Gates and Sir David Adjaye join Bono to spearhead (RED)’s third auction of contemporary art and design, raising funds for the global fight against AIDS. As Gagosian prepares the preview exhibition, Gillian Pistell looks at the urgency of this vital cause.

Fairs, Events & Announcements

Photo: courtesy Theaster Gates Studio

Performance

Gray Sound Sessions
Theaster Gates

Friday, July 31, 2020, 7–8pm edt

Theaster Gates and special guests will perform Gates’s sound piece Whoa de Whoa as part of Gray Sound Sessions, a free streaming weekly music-and-sound series featuring concerts, happenings, and experiments with form and platform. The event is put on by the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago. To watch the live performance, visit Theaster Gates’s Instagram.

Photo: courtesy Theaster Gates Studio

Theaster Gates, Black Vessel for a Saint, 2017 © Theaster Gates. Photo: Gene Pittman

Permanent Installation

Theaster Gates
Black Vessel for a Saint

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has permanently installed Theaster Gates’s Black Vessel for a Saint (2017) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. In 2014, St. Laurence Church, located just a few blocks from Theaster Gates’s Chicago studio and considered an architectural beacon in the neighborhood for more than a century, was demolished. Among the objects and materials that Gates collected from the building was a life-size stone statue of St. Laurence, a venerated Roman martyr and the patron saint of librarians and archivists. Gates included the statue in several exhibitions in Europe, revealing new meanings in each location, before placing it in its permanent home in the Sculpture Garden in 2017, within a shrine built from custom-made black bricks.

Theaster Gates, Black Vessel for a Saint, 2017 © Theaster Gates. Photo: Gene Pittman

Photo: Rankin

Award

Theaster Gates
Visions of the City

Theaster Gates was selected as the second recipient of the Visions of the City artist grant in July 2019. Launched by the Obayashi Foundation in 2017, the program awards one research grant every two years to an artist with an abundance of creative ideas and a specific interest in urban development and renewal.

Photo: Rankin

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Museum Exhibitions

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Black Chapel, Haus der Kunst, Munich, October 25, 2019–August 16, 2020. Artwork © Theaster Gates

On View

Theaster Gates
Black Chapel

Through August 16, 2020
Haus der Kunst, Munich
hausderkunst.de

For the sixth iteration of Haus der Kunst’s Der Öffentlichkeit commission series, Theaster Gates has created the expansive Black Chapel. This multipartite installation directly responds to the architecture of Haus der Kunst’s Middle Hall, exposing it to a complex politically and spiritually charged narrative while rendering it as an inviting social space. Two large pavilions, as well as vitrines, contain sculptures, photographs, and documents. Rotating mirrored sculptures and illuminated panels displaying photographs from the landmark Johnson Publishing Company further animate the space.

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Black Chapel, Haus der Kunst, Munich, October 25, 2019–August 16, 2020. Artwork © Theaster Gates

Photo: Isaac Sutton, courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. All rights reserved

On View

Theaster Gates
The Black Image Corporation

Through December 5, 2020
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta
www.spelman.edu

As an ongoing concern, Theaster Gates’s Black Image Archive examines the legacy of the Johnson Publishing Company archive, which contains more than four million images and helped shape the aesthetic and cultural vision of modern African American identity. Founded by John H. Johnson in 1942, the company created Ebony and Jet, two key periodicals for Black American audiences. Gates’s participatory exhibition invites visitors to actively explore the archive, which includes images by Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton, among many others.

Photo: Isaac Sutton, courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC. All rights reserved

Theaster Gates, Do you hear me calling? Mama Mamama or What Is Black Power?, 2018 (still) © Theaster Gates

Opening Soon

Future Histories
Theaster Gates and Cauleen Smith

Opening August 2020
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
www.sfmoma.org

Bringing together the work of two interdisciplinary artists, this presentation centers on video projections that each take archival magazine photography as a departure point. Theaster Gates’s Do you hear me calling? Mama Mamama or What Is Black Power? (2018) pays homage to the power of women by exploring the idea of the Black Madonna through a reworking of three decades of images drawn from the archives of the Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Jet and Ebony magazines. Smith’s Sojourner (2018) culminates with a feminist reimagining of an unpublished photograph taken for Life magazine in 1966.

Theaster Gates, Do you hear me calling? Mama Mamama or What Is Black Power?, 2018 (still) © Theaster Gates

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, February 20–May 12, 2019. Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Chris Strong

Closed

Theaster Gates
Amalgam

December 13, 2019–May 3, 2020
Tate Liverpool, England
www.tate.org.uk

In Amalgam Theaster Gates explores social histories of migration and interracial relations by focusing on a specific episode in the American narrative concerning the forced eviction of Black and mixed-race residents from the island of Malaga off the coast of Maine. The artist’s interest in this historical event has given rise to new sculptural, architectural, filmic, and musical perspectives in his oeuvre as he critically examines the history of land ownership and race relations in the northeastern United States. This show has traveled from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

Installation view, Theaster Gates: Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, February 20–May 12, 2019. Artwork © Theaster Gates. Photo: Chris Strong

See all Museum Exhibitions for Theaster Gates