Theaster Gates USA, b. 1973


Theaster Gates acts as an urban planner, educator, composer, and social catalyst to integrate his artworks into everyday social contexts and collapse the separation between art and life. His collaborations with researchers, architects, and performers result in multisensory artworks that are presented in both gallery settings and venues typically devoid of art. His work unearths issues of cultural fusion and revitalizes found materials. His practice as an artist involves disciplines that are pivotal in the formation and revision of dynamic communities. Gates’s ongoing projects include the Dorchester, a group of rehabbed buildings on Chicago’s South Side that houses cultural archives preserved when businesses closed or intended to dispose of their inventory. Presently, the project makes accessible to the general public books from the Prairie Avenue bookstore, a music collection from Dr. Wax (a legendary jazz and Blues record store), and the University of Chicago’s glass lantern slide library and Black Cinema House film archives. Dorchester is also a hub of artistic activity where the artist hosts dinners and performs with the musical group the Black Monks of Mississippi.


Gates connects and directs disparate groups into action by elevating familiar rituals into hybrid activities. The resulting objects both document the event and serve as the armature for interactions to occur.