Theaster  Gates

Theaster Gates

born in 1973 in Chicago (United States of America)

Theaster Gates was born in Chicago in 1973. From the beginning his conceptual mantra has been the renovation and the pursuit of Beauty.

East Garfield Park, a working-class neighborhood in Chicago and the artist's place of origin, is crucial in Gates's artistic research, as it encouraged him to develop his concept of research and regeneration of beauty.

As explained by the artist, his main purpose was to break the dark architectural “barriers” typical of some areas of Chicago.

Gates's aim was to create a positive environmental ecosystem, not because of a pure and simple aesthetic need, but because of the desire to overcome a surrounding space where darkness and opacity could prevail, generating negative consequences for the inhabitants of these neighborhoods.

In 1996 Gates graduated from Iowa State University in “Urban Planning and Ceramics” program. He then deepened his studies concerning ceramics in Tokoname in Japan. He finally obtains a master's degree from the University of Cape Town in "Fine Arts and Religious Studies".  

In the early 2000s, as soon as he finished student academic studies, Gates started to concentrate his artistic practice on his university studies: the making of ceramics and the merging of religious elements in the art process, focusing especially on African artifacts.

Gates chooses ceramic and clay because, as the artist says, using these materials “it is possible to create magnificent objects, from nothing”. 

What drives the artist to create his first works is in fact the concept of being able to give life and meaning to what previously did not have it. 

Later Gates expanded the variety of materials used in his works, choosing unusual elements, never actually conceived for creative use. 

Among these, the use of tar is very interesting, how Gates came into contact with it and what prompted him to elevate it to an artistic material.

Theaster Gates's father owned a small roof repair and small building construction company. When he retired, he decided to give his son, in a symbolic way, his tar boiler.

Gates then wondered how to use such a tool in his studio, which became for him a new expedient in his artistic creation.

Despite the difficulty in processing the tar, Gates manages to model it, almost like a work on ceramic, thanks to the help of his father.

Transform is probably the verb that best suits the artist. Giving new artistic dignity to materials without any peculiarities, without attraction and which often obscure everything around.

THEASTER GATES (1973, Chicago, USA)


Selected exhibitions


2020 Amalgam, Tate Liverpool, United Kingdom

          Black Image Corporation, Spelman College Museum of Fine   

          Art, Atlanta, USA

2019 Black Chapel, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany

         Black Image Corporation, PRADA Mode, 180 The Strand,    


         Assembly Hall, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

         Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris

         Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories, Colby Museum of  

         Art, Waterville, Maine

         Streams of Consciousness, Bamako Biennial, Bamako, Mali

        …and other such stories, Chicago Architectural Biennial, Chicago

         Mask in Present-Day Art, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Switzerland

2018 The Black Image Corporation, Fondazione Prada, Milan

          Black Madonna, Sprengel Museum, Hannover

          MONUMENTality, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

          New Materialism, Kunsthalle Bonniers, Stockholm

          Travellers: Stepping into the Unknown, The National Museum of   

          Art, Osaka, Japan

2017 In the Tower, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

         The Minor Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

         The Black Monastic, IHME Festival, Helsinki

         L’emozione dei COLORI nell’arte, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy

         An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s 

         Collection, 1940-2017, Whitney Museum, New York

2016 How to Build a House Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

         Black Archive, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria

         True Value, Fondazione Prada, Milan

         The Color Line, musée du Quai Branly, Paris

         The Underground Museum, Non-fiction, Museum of 

         Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

2015 Contemporary Conversations, Ottawa Residence

         SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms, 14th Istanbul Biennial

         All the World’s Futures, 56th Venice Biennial

Theaster  Gates - Bleeding
Wood, rubber and tar
183 × 92 cm
Theaster Gates - Bleeding
2013 - Wood, rubber and tar - 183 × 92 cm
Theaster  Gates - Rubber Reduction Exercise
Rubber Reduction Exercise
Roofing paper, rubber and tar on panel
244,5 × 244,5 × 10,2 cm
Theaster Gates - Rubber Reduction Exercise
2013 - Roofing paper, rubber and tar on panel - 244,5 × 244,5 × 10,2 cm