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Haus der Kunst presents a new commission by Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates. Black Chapel. Installation view Haus der Kunst, 2019. Photo: Jens Weber, München.


MUNICH.- The work of the American artist Theaster Gates (*1973) builds a bridge between art and life, fascinating viewers with evocative spatial constellations that make visible the network of relationships between stereotypical forms of representation and the power structures that underpin them. By incorporating a multifaceted practice that unites sculpture, installation, film, performance, improvisation, musical composition and public action, Gates transforms spaces into places of artistic and cultural intervention, and thus into potential platforms for political and social change.

For the sixth iteration of Haus der Kunst’s series Der Öffentlichkeit - Von den Freunden Haus der Kunst, Theaster Gates has created the expansive Black Chapel. This multipartite installation directly responds to the architecture of Haus der Kunst’s 800-square-meter Middle Hall, exposing it to a complex, politically and spiritually charged narrative. The installation comprises two large pavilions, as well as a variety of vitrines, each containing a disparate array of sculptures, photographs and documents. These are accompanied by two large-scale illuminated, rotating panels that display photographs from the archives of the landmark Johnson Publishing Company. The images were first published in “Ebony” and “Jet” magazines, two iconic publications that contributed significantly to the spread of Black culture in the United States. Within the context of the current commission, the interplay of sculpture and photography facilitates the creation of a space that evokes questions about Black history, spirituality and representation, and rewrites them visually.

In the adjacent Archive Gallery, Gates exhibits the record collection of the athlete Jesse Owens (1913–80) as part of the series “Archives in Residence.” Owens grew up in times of strict racial segregation in the United States. At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, this exceptional athlete won several gold medals under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler. His successes there were recorded by the controversial film director and photographer Leni Riefenstahl, who created the propaganda film Olympia. Riefenstahl’s material has now been reincorporated alongside other archival footage into a newly-created film by Gates, which offers a radical critique of racist image politics. Coincidentally, the paths of Jesse Owens and Leni Riefenstahl crossed once again in 1972, when both travelled to the Olympics in Munich, thereby drawing a line between the story of Jesse Owens’ life—as encapsulated in the collection of over 1,800 records—the clash of the racist ideologies in the US and Germany throughout his lifetime, and the particularly fraught history of Haus der Kunst.

Curated by Anna Schneider
Curatorial Assistant Dimona Stöckle






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