Theaster Gates' site-specific intervention for Prada Mode Miami.
Photo: Getty Images

Theaster Gates

The Chicago-based talent combines art and activism to powerful effect

Theaster Gates. Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

A painter, sculptor, activist, scholar, and urban planner, Theaster Gates lives somewhere at the intersection of art and community engagement. One of his most notable works is the Dorchester Projects in Chicago, a series of dilapidated houses on the South Side of his hometown that Gates purchased and turned into cultural centers. It is just one part of his ambitious Rebuild Foundation, the nonprofit he founded in 2010 with three core values, which he has described as “black people matter, black spaces matter, and black objects matter.”

In a slight pivot from his social practice, Gates designed the buzzy, site-specific installation for Prada Mode, the luxury brand’s members-only nightclub during 2018’s Art Basel in Miami Beach and an offshoot of his show at Fondazione Prada in Milan. Next up is a spring presentation of new work at Richard Gray’s warehouse in Chicago, and in the fall Gates will take over and partially renovate New York’s historic Park Avenue Armory to host his renowned Black Artists Retreat, the first time the event will happen outside Chicago. In 2020, he’ll have an exhibition at mega-gallery Gagosian, which recently began representing him in New York. “It’s rare to see the elasticity that comes so naturally to his practice,” Valerie Carberry, partner at Richard Gray Gallery says of Gates. “He finds what is radical in the deeply familiar.”

“The Black Image Corporation,” a project by Theaster Gates, recently on view at the Osservatorio venue in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, presented by Fondazione Prada. Photo: Getty Images
Theaster Gates’ site-specific intervention for Prada Mode Miami. Photo: Getty Images
Theaster Gates Dorchester Projects, Chicago 2012. Photo: Sara Pooley, Courtesy of White Cube and the artist

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.


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