Theaster Gates Splits Artes Mundi Prize Winnings with Nominees

Theaster GatesPhoto: Sara Pooley via Architectural Record
Theaster Gates
Photo: Sara Pooley via Architectural Record

Theaster Gates has won the sixth Artes Mundi award, which comes with a £40,000 cash prize, the largest for the arts in the UK. The announcement was made last night during a ceremony at Cardiff’s National Museum, in Wales. Chicago-based Gates triumphed over a roster of nine illustrious nominees, including Sanja Iveković, Omer Fast, Sharon Lockhart, Renzo Martens, Renata Lucas, Carlos Bunga, Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, and Ragnar Kjartansson.

But, in an unusual token of generosity and respect for his fellow nominees, Gates has announced that will share the hefty cash prize with all of them.

Originally trained as an urban planner, Gates rose to prominence in the last decade thanks to his large-scale urban renewal projects in depressed areas of the US (see Apply to Live in Theaster Gates’ Chicago Artist Housing Project and Theaster Gates-Commissioned Mural Painted Over in Chicago). Gates finances these urban interventions with the sale of his artworks in commercial galleries, such as White Cube or Kavi Gupta.

Gates’ winning installation, entitled A Complicated Relationship between Heaven and Earth, or When We Believe (2014), comprises a large array of symbolic objects from all over the world, and seeks to question the dominance of Christian ideology in the western world.

The Artes Mundi prize was founded in 2002 by the Welsh artist William Wilkins and is awarded every two years. By some estimations, Artes Mundi is beginning to eclipse the UK-centric, less well-endowed Turner Prize (see Is the Turner Prize Just a Publicity Machine? JJ Charlesworth Takes on the Tate and Turner Prize: Confused Critics Demand Relevance!).


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