Theaster Gates

Black Vessel

October 10–December 19, 2020
555 West 24th Street, New York

Theaster Gates, Flag Sketch, 2020 Industrial oil-based enamel, rubber torch down, bitumen, wood, and copper nails, 72 × 72 inches (182.9 × 182.9 cm)© Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates, Flag Sketch, 2020

Industrial oil-based enamel, rubber torch down, bitumen, wood, and copper nails, 72 × 72 inches (182.9 × 182.9 cm)
© Theaster Gates


I always find myself returning to the vessel. It is part of the intellectual life force of my practice and it precedes all other forms of making.
—Theaster Gates

Gagosian is pleased to present Black Vessel, Theaster Gates’s first-ever solo exhibition in New York.

Gates’s oeuvre is among the most conceptually and materially rich in contemporary art, anchored equally in the canons of art history and the racial ideology of the Black diaspora. Through an art practice predicated on cultural reclamation and social empowerment, Gates exchanges and recharges objects and ideas, creating a cyclical ecosystem of renewal. Traversing a broad range of media, from painting, sculpture, sound, and performance to the processes of salvaging, archiving, and space making, he delivers penetrating social commentary on labor, material, spiritual capital, and commodity, within a close examination of the urban condition.

With potent synergies of material and meaning, Gates promotes the vessel as a container of the concrete, the symbolic, and the spiritual—a metaphor for embodied existence and a means by which to gather communities together in time and space. For Gates, who trained as a potter, the ceramic vessel is a universal object of ritual significance. In a new series of unique large-scale works in glazed and fired clay, he unites ancient traditions with modernist aesthetics, drawing elective affinities between Eastern, Western, and African techne.

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555 West 24th Street, New York

555 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

+1 212 741 1111

Hours: Monday–Saturday 10–6

This gallery will reopen on October 10, 2020.

In the interest of public health, please read the new guidelines for visiting the 555 West 24th Street gallery.


Polskin Arts
Meagan Jones
+1 212 593 6485

Julia Esposito
+1 212 715 1643


The crowd at the public funeral of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in April 1968. Photo by Moneta Sleet Jr.

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2020

The Fall 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available.

Photo: Moneta Sleet, Jr., 1965. Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution.

Theaster Gates: Black Image Corporation

As a prelude to his first-ever solo exhibition in New York, Theaster Gates discusses his prescient work with the photographic archive of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company and his formation of Black Image Corporation as a conceptual project. In conversation with Louise Neri, he expands on his strategies as artist and social innovator in his quest to redeem and renew the sacred power of Black images and Black space. 

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.

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.

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.