The FICA Reading Room had Chicago-based installation artist Theaster Gates for a short session on November 23, 2017 in its new space at S-17 Khirki Extension, New Delhi: 110017 where we are sharing space with Gati Dance Forum.

Addressing a small collective of artists, anthropologists and enthusiasts, Gates spoke about beauty, art, their complex, and often, contradictory relationship with social affirmation. Picking up on the notion of beauty and its culturally-specific reception, the discussion centered around how beauty is contingent on the moment, both immediate and historical. Through an interactive session with the assembly at the space, Gates used his body of practice to expand on the complex equation between vernacular labour and high art.

About Theaster Gates:

Born in Chicago in 1973, Theaster Gates  creates sculptures with clay, tar, and renovated buildings, transforming the raw material of urban neighborhoods into radically re-imagined vessels of opportunity for the community. Establishing a virtuous circle between fine art and social progress, Gates strips dilapidated buildings of their components, transforming those elements into sculptures that act as bonds or investments, the proceeds of which are used to finance the rehabilitation of entire city blocks. His 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. 

Gates has exhibited widely, including group shows such as the Whitney Biennial, New York (2010), dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel (2012), ’The Spirit of Utopia’ at Whitechapel, London (2013) and Studio Museum’s ‘When Stars Collide’ in New York (2014). Solo exhibitions include ‘To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave, the Slave Potter’ at Milwaukee Art Museum (2010), Seattle Art Museum (2011), MCA Chicago (2013) and ‘The Black Monastic’ residency at Museu Serralves, Porto (2014). In 2013, Gates was awarded the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, and he has since won the Artes Mundi 6 prize (2015). Gates is also the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation and currently Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago.