Theaster Gates

The artist who does more outside the gallery than within

Gates continues to balance commercial gallery glitz with progressive social practice. His archive, gallery and residency space Stony Island Arts Bank opened in Chicago last year, after managing to secure funding for refurbishments by taking marble tiles that lined the former bank’s original toilets to sell at Art Basel. This year has seen a series of large shows at institutions around the world, including transporting an entire hardware store to Fondazione Prada in Milan, recreating a vintage house-music club in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and displaying parts of his archived collection of ‘negrobilia’ at the Kunsthaus Bregenz. As Gates continues to combine the roles of potter, painter, landlord, archivist and neighbour, it has become increasingly apparent that at the heart of his projects isn’t just processes of renewal and community but also an attention to what stories are preserved, and who is able to benefit from those stories, as he seeks to keep visible the legacies of a living African-American cultural history.