Slaves, Ex Slaves
Theaster Gates was born 1973, Chicago (US). He graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in urban planning and ceramics in 1996. Since 2006, he has been involved in the Dorchester Projects, which seeks to revitalize the Black community in the South Side of Chicago. For the project, Gates purchased and renovated vacant buildings into cultural institutions for preserving and utilizing collections of books and records that would have been lost or discarded, which he had purchased from closing down stores in the neighborhood. By working with archival collections centered in African-American history, Gates' work addresses issues of history, memory, and the value ascribed to Black history and cultural production. In 2015, Gates purchased the Stony Island State Savings Bank, which was built during the Prohibition Era, from the city of Chicago for one dollar. The building underwent extensive renovations and was opened as the Stony Island Arts Bank in 2018, dedicated to preserving and exhibiting collections of photographs, crafts, records, and other artifacts from the University of Chicago and other parts of the United States. In addition to his activities as a promoter of such large-scale projects, Gates' ideas, which serve as a source of inspiration for his ceramics and installation works, resonate with Japanese "Mingei” (folk art and craft). Gates has visited Japan many times since studying pottery in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture in 1999, and in recent years has been working on a new aesthetic he refers to as "Afro-Mingei," which brings together Japanese philosophy and Black identity. He is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Artes Mundi award (Wales, UK) in 2015, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2021. Gates has been invited to take part in dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), and has held solo exhibitions at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA (2019); the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2020); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2021). He attracted significant acclaim for his design for the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion for Serpentine Galleries in London. Gates was also a participating artist in “STILL ALIVE: Aichi Triennale 2022.” He currently lives and works in Chicago.