Theaster Gates’s practice traverses an extraordinary range, from collecting to social gathering, architecture and object making, experimental music and sound, and the ethical and physical reconstruction of civic life. His interdisciplinary fusion of archiving, performance, institution building, painting, and sculpting is deeply rooted in African American histories and cultures, and revolves around the transformation of objects, edifices, and communities through art and cultural activity.
Created in response to the covid-19 pandemic, the Artist Spotlight series highlights individual artists, one week at a time, whose exhibitions have been affected by the health crisis. A single artwork by the artist is made available with pricing information for forty-eight hours only.
Artist Spotlight: Theaster Gates will feature a new work directly from the artist’s studio. For more information, please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Chris Strong
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.
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.
Cast of Characters
James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Through August 16, 2020
Haus der Kunst, Munich
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
The Black Image Corporation
Through December 5, 2020
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta
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 and Cauleen Smith
Opening August 2020
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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
December 13, 2019–May 3, 2020
Tate Liverpool, England
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