Theaster Gates (b. 1973) is a Chicago-based social practice installation artist. Founder of the non-profit organization, Rebuild Foundation, and current Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago, Gates is committed to the revitalization of underprivileged neighborhoods via urban planning and the arts. He is represented by White Cube, London and Gagosian Gallery, New York. In 2013, Gates was named the 40th most influential person in the art world by ArtReview. Theaster Gates attended Iowa State University (MS, 2006; BS 1996) and University of Cape Town (MA, 1998).
Theaster Gates has exhibited and performed at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Punta della Dogana, Venice; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany; among others. He has received awards and grants from Creative Time, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, United States Artists, Creative Capital, the Joyce Foundation, Graham Foundation, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and Artadia. Gates’s awards and residencies include the Kurt Schwitters Prize (2017), American Academy of Arts & Sciences Award (2016); Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Social Progress (2015), Artes Mundi Award (2015), honorary doctorates from the San Francisco Art Institute (2015) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2014), Knight Foundation Grant (2014), Creative Capital Grant (2012), United States Artists Fellowship (2012), Graham Foundation Grant (2011), and the Joyce Award (2009). Gates has had major exhibitions at Art Gallery of Ontario (2016); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2016); Istanbul Biennial (2015); Venice Biennale (2015); MCA Chicago (2013); Fabric Workshop and Museum (2013); and Documenta (2012), among others.
His artwork is included in most contemporary art museums around the world.
Gates’s non-profit, Rebuild Foundation, manages the many projects in his Chicago hometown—including the Stony Island Arts Bank, Black Cinema House, Dorchester Art and Housing Collaborative, Archive House, and Listening House—while extending its support to cities throughout the American Midwest. Many of the artist’s works evoke his African-American identity and the broader struggle for civil rights, from sculptures incorporating fire hoses, to events organized around soul food, and choral performances by the experimental musical ensemble Black Monks of Mississippi, led by Gates himself.