Artes Mundi 6
27 Jan 2015
Chicago-based contemporary artist Theaster Gates has been chosen from a shortlist of ten of the world’s leading artists to win the UK’s leading prize for international contemporary art, Artes Mundi 6.
The Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones, First Minister for Wales announced Theaster Gates as the winner of the biannual award, with a prize sum of 40,000 GBP, at a ceremony held at the National Museum Cardiff. Upon accepting his award, Theaster gates decided to split the 40,000 GBP prize amongst his fellow shortlisted artists.
Gates’s multi-faceted practice encompasses social activism, urban regeneration and community development in economically deprived areas of South Side Chicago, St. Louis and Omaha. Known widely as The Poster Boy for Socially Engaged Art, Gates work has revolutionised contemporary art with what The New York Times has called his “circular economy,” in which Gates funds urban renewal through the sale of his artwork.
Gates’s winning installation, titled When We Believe (2014), seeks to challenge a Western-centric ideology of Christianity that marginalises other religious traditions. The work takes form as a series of symbolic objects that have been used as vehicles for religious transcendence in diverse cultures across the globe. These include a Malines Boli, or bull sculpture, used to deter bad spirits and protect crops in Africa; a revolving, early 20th-century goat riding tricycle used in American Masonic initiation ceremonies; slates from the roof of Chicago’s demolished St. Laurence church, a local landmark of white Catholic and black Protestant tensions; and a video of Billy Sings Amazing Grace, featuring the soul singer, Billy Forston, and Gates’s gospel ensemble, The Black Monks of Mississippi.Each object is linked by a shared focus on the relationship between spirituality and labour.
Theaster Gate’s winning piece, alongside the other shortlisted works, is on display at National Museum Cardiff, Chapter and Ffotogallery, Penarth, until 22 February.