Theaster Gates is a phenomenon — one of the world’s most influential artists, he features at number 56 on Art Review’s list of the most powerful people in art. Gates is also a plain-speaking social commentator and activist. Some of his most powerful work is on display this fall at simultaneous shows held at White Cube’s galleries in Hong Kong and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The shows are dominated by ‘salvaged materials’ — found objects, including junk, in layman’s terms— and speak of homelessness, forced migration, and religious and political persecution.
Gates comes from Chicago’s notorious South Side, where he still lives and works. His voice voice is a clear and powerful call connecting art, urban chaos and decay (he trained as an urban planner) and social issues that interweave the world. They are impossible to understand unless seen up close and personal — as anyone who saw his powerful ‘12 Ballads for Huguenot House’, created for last year’s dOCUMENTA (13) fair in Germany, can testify. Now you have a very good excuse for that visit to Hong Kong or Brazil.