Theaster Gates Launches First Public Project in UK in Bombed Medieval Church in Bristol

Theaster GatesPhoto: Courtesy of Sara Pooley
Theaster Gates
Photo: Courtesy of Sara Pooley

The American artist Theaster Gates will launch Sanctum, his first UK-based public project next October in Bristol, as part of a three-day art festival called Art Weekender.

For Sanctum, the renowned artist will build a temporary structure within the ruins of the 14th century Temple Church, which was severely damaged by bombings during the World War II.

To complete his installation—created with discarded materials from former sites of labor and religious devotion across the city—Gates has also launched an open call for local musicians and performers to animate the space with an ensemble of sound works, running for a total of 576 hours.

Sanctum is a collaboration with the city’s materials, the city’s administrators, the city’s artists, and musicians to engage in quietly restorative work and to amplify the city’s unheard voices,” Gates said in a statement.

Sanctum will be open 24 hours a day for 24 days, and visitors will be able to enjoy a wide array of performances, from spoken word to a gospel choir. The performers’ schedule won’t be announced publicly, however, so visitors will experience the live soundtrack in an unpredictable manner, as a set of unexpected voices and testimonies from the city.

Temple Church, Bristol, the setting of Gates’ Sanctum (2015)<br>Phot: Courtesy of Max McClure

Temple Church, Bristol, the setting of Gates’s Sanctum (2015).
Photo: Courtesy of Max McClure.

Sanctum, produced by the organization Situations, encompasses the variety of concerns that underpin the oeuvre of the Chicago-based artist, which includes urban planning, religion, and sound.

Gates, who was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at London’s White Cube, made his name in 2009 with Dorchester Projects, in which he transformed a cluster of disused buildings in Chicago into alternative cultural spaces.

In June, Gates was appointed as one of the winners of the inaugural Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Public Art Challenge, which awards $1 million to artists to create public art that fosters creativity and cultural growth.

Gates is also the winner of the 2015 Arts Mundi award, which comes with a £40,000 cash prize that he decided to split with his fellow nominees.

Theaster Gates, “Sanctum” will run at Temple Church, Bristol, from October 29-November 21.

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