Theaster Gates

The artist who does more outside the gallery than within

Paris’s Palais de Toyko, where Gates exhibited in February, describes the artist’s aim as being to establish ‘compelling new models for legacy building, social transformation and making art’. This, famously, has involved a vast artist-led, socially responsive regeneration project on the South Side of Chicago, which this year staged an exhibition of works by artists Glenn Ligon, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Henry Taylor; hosted residencies for young artists and musicians of colour; and put on a public programme of activities including adult ballet. Gates had a busy exhibition schedule in his own right. In addition to Paris, shows at his wellheeled commercial galleries and turns for Prada’s ‘members’ club’ during art fairs (he is cochair of the brand’s diversity and inclusion advisory council), the artist took over the Walker in Minneapolis, filling it with what he termed ‘negrobilia’, historic objects that, wrote The Wall Street Journal, amounted to ‘part installation and part sociology research project’.