Theaster Gates uses sculpture prize to fund literary venture

The Chicago artist plans to spend his $100,000 2018 Nasher Prize money on an antique mechanical printing press
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Theaster Gates - image courtesy Theaster Gates Studio
Theaster Gates - image courtesy Theaster Gates Studio

Most of us know how we’d spend an unexpected couple of thousand dollars. Yet, Theaster Gates is far less predictable. In 2013 he chose to split his £40,000 Artes Mundi prize money with the other nine shortlisted artists. Now, he has announced plans to invest the $100,000 he will receive from the 2018 Nasher Prize for Sculpture in a new literary project.

Is Gates going into books? Well, it’s true that the artist was initially known as a potter, before going on to employ painting, sculpture and real estate within his practice, and isn’t commonly associated with creative writing.

However, as we explain in our monograph, Gates was involved with Chicago’s spoken-word poetry scene before he found fame as a fine artist, and a number of his poems appear in the Artist’s Writings section of our book.

 

Like a Space on a Page (2017) by Theaster Gates; poetry written on to the spines of bound Jet Magazines. © Theaster Gates, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Like a Space on a Page (2017) by Theaster Gates; poetry written on to the spines of bound Jet Magazines. © Theaster Gates, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Using his prize money, which the artist will receive at a ceremony next April, Gates will branch out into poetry publishing, printing his own work and books by other poets in a typically outmoded and unconventional method. The New York Times reports that Gates plans to buy an antique Heidelberg windmill printing press.

“The equipment itself is a kind of beautiful, mechanical, kinetic sculpture,” Gates told the Times. “I’m basically purchasing sculpture with the hope it will help me produce new, beautiful forms.”

 

It’s an odd choice for a new publishing house, in an age of digital production, yet an entirely apt move for an artist who, having purchased and renovated old churches, banks, shops and houses, often forces us to rethink our sense of value and meaning.

 

Theaster Gates. Photo by Sara Pooley
Theaster Gates. Photo by Sara Pooley

For more on this important artist order a copy of our Theaster Gates monograph here; for more on artistic publishing order a copy of Artists who Make Books.


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