Theaster Gates and Okwui Enwezor party in Chicago

The Venice Biennale director embraces America's most exciting artist in celebration of his latest project
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From right: Ken Stewart, Rebuild’s CEO, looks on as Okwui Enwezor embraces Theaster Gates at a dinner to celebrate Gates’ newly restored Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago. Image from Rebuild’s Instagram, taken by Kelly Taub, for BFA partnerships
From right: Ken Stewart, Rebuild’s CEO, looks on as Okwui Enwezor embraces Theaster Gates at a dinner to celebrate Gates’ newly restored Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago. Image from Rebuild’s Instagram, taken by Kelly Taub, for BFA partnerships

The art world came to Illinois at the weekend for Chicago Expo, the city’s great art fair. However, a few attendants realised that not all great contemporary artworks can be accommodated in an 800 square-foot booth. Which is why some, including the Phaidon author and artistic director of the 2015 Venice Biennale Okwui Enwezor, travelled to the city’s South Side to celebrate the completion of Theaster Gates’s Stony Island Arts Bank.

 

Inside the Stony Island Arts Bank, courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation's Instagram
Inside the Stony Island Arts Bank, courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation's Instagram

Two years ago, Gates flew to the Art Basel fair in Switzerland, to sell 100 ‘art bonds’, engraved on marble bathroom partitions salvaged from Chicago’s derelict Stony Island Trust & Savings Bank, which the city sold to Gates for a dollar, on the understanding he would raise the funds, via his Rebuild Foundation, to turn the building into an arts centre.

 

Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago, 2013, photographic documentation. From Theaster Gates
Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago, 2013, photographic documentation. From Theaster Gates

This weekend, he welcomed guests to take a look at where that money went, as his newly completed Arts Bank readies itself for an October 3rd opening. Occupying a curious position somewhere between arts project, community centre and library, the new Arts Bank will offer visitors access to such Gatesian cultural curios as the entire editorial and research archive once belonging to the African-American interest magazines, Jet and Ebony, as well as the record collection once belonging to the city’s most famous DJ and house music pioneer, Frankie Knuckles.

 

Inside the Stony Island Arts Bank, courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation's Instagram
Inside the Stony Island Arts Bank, courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation's Instagram

“This is a new kind of cultural amenity, a new kind of institution - a hybrid gallery, media archive and library, and community center," Gates explains. "It is an institution of and for the South Side - a repository for African American culture and history, a laboratory for the next generation of black artists and culture-interested people; a platform to showcase future leaders - be they painters, educators, scholars, or curators."

 

Theaster Gates with the Arts Banks' Ebony archive
Theaster Gates with the Arts Banks' Ebony archive

Some of that cultural interest came in the form of Carlos Bunga’s inaugural installation. The Portuguese sculptor works with cardboard and packing tape to create intricate, architectural forms that look at once monumental, and at the same time, slap-dash and impermanent.

 

Carlos Bunga's work, courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation
Carlos Bunga's work, courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation

This new work, which will be on display at Stony Island from the opening on 3 October until the beginning of next year, examines “the inter-relationship between doing and undoing, between unmaking and remaking, between the micro and the macro, between investigation and conclusion.” Fitting subjects, for Gates’ uncategorisable new project.

 

Another happy customer at Chicago Expo - photo by Chris Conti
Another happy customer at Chicago Expo - photo by Chris Conti

While at Chicago Expo Theaster made time to sign copies of our new monograph for enthusiastic collectors and fans as well as some notable gallerists and fellow artists. You can learn more about the book and Theaster Gates’s life and work in it. Meanwhile, for more on Okwui Enwezor’s take on the art world, get Defining Contemporary Art; and for more on Bunga buy a copy of our contemporary sculpture survey, Unmonumental.

 

Enlightening reading: Theaster interviewed at Chicago Expo - photo by Chris Conti
Enlightening reading: Theaster interviewed at Chicago Expo - photo by Chris Conti


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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