Theaster Gates installs hardware store in Prada
New project True Value takes place across Milan in what curator describes as 'a call to arms'
Visitors to Fondazione Prada in Milan next month will be able to enjoy a newly installed shop space. However, they shouldn’t expect to find any well-cut, beautiful Italian clothing on the rails.
From 7 July to 25 September the Fondazione’s Podium building will house an abandoned hardware store on its first floor. The 'shop', which was stripped from a derelict building on South Halsted Street, Chicago, is the work of the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, whom, as we explain in our new Contemporary Artist Series book, often takes discarded materials from rundown parts of his city – school gym floors, even church roofs – and repurposes them in a fine-art setting.
This Prada installation, entitled True Value, takes its name from a chain of owner-operated hardware stores headquartered in Chicago - and there’s a nice dual meaning here too.
“True Value (2016) gathered materials, objects and tools removed from their original context and relocated them in an art environment, deploying a framework to formulate a poetic and pragmatic space around objects of trade and human relationships those economic and labour exchanges create,” Fondazione Prada says.
“If there is a particular ethos that has characterized Theaster Gates’s work in recent years, it is the formulation of the unimaginable as a common cause," says the show's curator Elvira Dyangani Ose. "It would be a misconception to believe that his attention to urban regeneration, social practice and blackness engages only the communities that his projects affect immediately," she goes on. "Instead, Gates’s immaterial gestures – as much as the objects he produces and the experiences he generates – are essentially a ‘call to arms’, raising awareness of the need for what American theorist and poet Fred Moten calls the ‘coalition’, or the recognition that what affects those communities subsequently affects the rest of us too; the acceptance that we are all in this together”.
That theme of human relations, particularly race relations, continues in the Fondazione’s Cistern building, with a series of Gates’s better-known works, such as his Civil Tapestries series, wherein the artist collaged together strips of decommissioned fire hoses similar to those used to subdue protestors during the 1963 civil-rights march in Birmingham, Alabama; and his tar paintings, thick bituminous compositions that are, in part a tribute to his father, who was both a professional roofer.
For greater insight into this important contemporary artist take look at our Theaster Gates Contemporary Artist Series book; one of his tar paintings is on the cover; and if you're planning a trip to Milan to see it make sure you take the Wallpaper* City Guide to Milan.