'My Labor is My Protest,' Theaster Gates, White Cube, London, 2012. Nasser Sculpture Center

Arts & Entertainment

Nasher Laureate Theaster Gates Leads With Studio-Social Transformation

First a potter, then a sculptor, now a trailblazing presence in holistic and culturally-aware redevelopment, and a sculptor, and a potter.

Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick announced yesterday Theaster Gates will receive $100,000 from the Nasher Sculpture Center, making him the third person and the first American to earn the title of Nasher Prize Laureate. His work is a highly potent, place-based assignation of everyday tools to the service of active memory and historical preservation, especially as it relates to the African-American experience in Chicago where the artist lives and teaches. He’s a civic leader and an expert on putting marginalized communities first in city development as the head of Place Lab and the founder of Rebuild. We’ll have more on all his contributions soon.

Something to consider first about the possibility of Gates’ influence on Dallas during the next year is the way he subverts the very space of museums and imposes open discourse on systems of hypocrisy. Perhaps the most representative of Gates’ art actions, to this effect: Holding Court, a sculpture/performance hybrid work performed at the Studio Museum in Harlem and other galleries beginning in 2012. Gates took chairs, desks and tables from a closed school on Chicago’s South Side named Crispus Attucks, after the first martyr of the American Revolution. He set up the furniture and simply invited people to come sit with him there and talk candidly about anything.

“I want artists to understand that in the absence of a gallery or museum, they have the capacity to invent the platform by which they can express their beliefs,” Gates told Carol Becker in an interview for his catalog.