Nasher Sculpture Center

Theaster Gates wins the 2018 Nasher Prize

With a strong focus on the material aspects of memory, history, and place, Nasher Prize 2018 Laureate Theaster Gates has established a new paradigm for sculpture by joining together disparate methods of artistic production—the creation of discrete objects and the re-zoning, rebuilding, and reterritorializing of architectural spaces

Theater Gates, Migration Rickshaw for Sleeping, Playing, and Building, 2013. Wood, fabric, metal, plastic, Huguenot House remnants, 68 x 104 x 46 inches. View of 13th Ballad, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2013. © Theater Gates. Photo: Sara Pooley Photography. Courtesy of the artist.

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The Nasher Sculpture Center announces American artist Theaster Gates as the recipient of the 2018 Nasher Prize.

In its third year, the Nasher Prize is the most ambitious international award in sculpture, established to honor a living artist who elevates the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities. Theaster Gates maintains an artistic practice that incorporates sculpture, painting, music, performance, architecture, urban planning, and social engagement. His projects cull from the material history of a place—physical, political, or cultural—in order to manifest a work that speaks to both the artist’s personal narrative and to the particular story of a building, a site, an object, or a people. As such, Gates’ method of using architecture, music, extant archives, and human interaction as material for his work creates dynamic ecosystems wherein everything—from the objects that he creates to the orchestrated exchange of ideas within communal space—is part of his sculptural practice.

Theaster Gates has expanded the definition of a sculptor through critical investigations of art history, memory, and materiality. Earning a BS from Iowa State University in ceramics and urban planning, Gates began his art career as a potter. He fuses a traditional sculptural training with materials that reify, archive, and memorialize the black American experience. From his conceptual soul food dinner party at Hyde Park Art Center in 2007 for which the artist introduced narrative to his pottery, to the debut of tar paintings at White Cube in 2015, to his deployment of archives that index the cultural history of the Black American experience, the artist elevates and expands the powerful tradition of object-making.

Theaster Gates was selected for his remarkable work by an international jury of museum directors, curators, artists, and art historians who demonstrate unparalleled expertise in the field of sculpture. Gates will be presented with an award designed by Renzo Piano, architect of the Nasher Sculpture Center, at a ceremony in Dallas on April 7, 2018.

Sculpture is a way to move between materials—to fight with materials. This movement between materials and modes of making is what I want to spend my time doing. My work’s aim is to pay attention to a thing that has not had attention paid to it in a long time,” says Theaster Gates.

It is an honor for us to award the 2018 Nasher Prize to Theaster Gates, an artist who engages such a range of tools and methods in his practice, generating intricate networks of relationship between objects, spaces, people, and memory,” says Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick. “His work has powerfully influenced the way we understand the vital role of sculpture within culture and daily life, and we look forward to seeing his unparalleled innovation and charismatic imagination play out in the years to come.

The 2017 Nasher Prize jurors are: Phyllida Barlow, artist; Huma Bhabha, artist; Pablo León de la Barra, Guggenheim Curator at Large, Latin America; Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator, National Gallery of Art; Okwui Enwezor, Director, Haus der Kunst; Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT); Hou Hanru, Artistic Director, MAXXI, Rome; Alexander Potts, art historian; and Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of the Arts Council England.

“It was important to this year’s jury to select a winner that reflects the agenda of today’s artistic production in terms of its originality, in terms of its relevance, and in terms of its interaction with how the society needs an aesthetic dimension in the social life,” says Nasher Prize juror Hou Hanru, Artistic Director of MAXXI, Rome. “Theaster Gates demonstrates how an artist can take on an incredibly strong social responsibility and translate it into, on the one hand, a social action, and on the other hand, a really extraordinary artistic project that is consisting of architecture, intervention, social organization, and also the production of beautiful objects. And Gates has incredible consistency—in action, vision and production. He is an artist that opens a new window into life, and is an artist living plainly with the openness of the self—an exceptional quality.”

In conjunction with the Nasher Prize, the Nasher Sculpture Center annually presents a series of public programs exploring the climate of contemporary sculpture. This year, the Nasher Prize Dialogues will occur in Chicago, Paris, Glasgow, and Dallas. Interdisciplinary luminaries will summit to discuss the most compelling topics regarding contemporary sculpture. By galvanizing international discourse, Nasher Prize Dialogues are an apt extension of the Nasher Prize’s mission to advocate for and advance a vital contemporary art form.

The Nasher Prize is generously co-chaired by Christen and Derek Wilson. They have helped garner support for the prize and its attendant programs, including the Nasher Prize Dialogues.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is the presenting sponsor of the Nasher Prize. Founding Partners of the Nasher Prize are The Eugene McDermott Foundation and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger. Media sponsors are Belo Media Group, KERA’s Art & Seek, and PaperCity.

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