Theaster Gates

The artist who does more outside the gallery than within

Gates’s tricksterish work combines sculpture, performance, community projects and urbanism with the aim of effecting practical change. The sale of objects, often crafted from the detritus of city life and resembling modernist abstract sculptures or paintings, partially funds the regeneration of the artist’s native South Side Chicago through his Rebuild Foundation, which purchases disused buildings and refurbishes them as community centres, including housing for artists and an archive of black American music. In February he staged a show of Ebony and Jet magazines, the archives of which the artists owns, in the building of their former publisher. If Gates sometimes is gaming the international artworld, using the wealth of its collectors to fix infrastructural problems that the local and federal governments have failed to address (while having fun, it seems; he started a music imprint too this year), then a major exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel this year, which travelled to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, provided further institutional recognition.