Contemporary American artist Theaster Gates makes his Canadian debut this summer with an ambitious solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). In a series of large-scale installations, Gates creates symbolic spaces in the tradition of the house museum, each dedicated to the potential of Black creativity and freedom—past, present and future. Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum opens in Toronto on July 21, 2016 and runs until October 30, 2016, filling the entire fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower.
Curated by Kitty Scott, the AGO’s Carol and Morton Rapp Curator, Modern & Contemporary Art, the exhibition upends the conservative customs associated with house museums, which are so often connected to narrow ideas of cultural heritage and national identity.
“By reimagining the traditional house museum and locating it inside the AGO, Gates calls attention to the need to preserve the accomplishments of Black people, whether famous or lesser known,” says Kitty Scott. “His house museums commemorate their legacies and spaces and, in this reinvention, ask vital questions about how we remember Black creativity and freedom—and how we envision their future.”
Incorporating sound, dance, video, sculpture and paintings, How to Build a House Museum is organized as six symbolic houses. Each house is dedicated to a different person or idea, such as legendary Chicago house music producer DJ Frankie Knuckles, blues musician Muddy Waters, and bricklayer George Black. The exhibition culminates in a club outfitted with a skeletal DJ booth, rotating disco ball, and Gates’s video House Heads Liberation Training (2016), which creates space for moving bodies.
- Theaster Gates, House Heads Liberation Training (still), 2016
- Exhibition View. Courtesy of AGO