Theaster Gates is to design the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion in London, marking the first time someone other than an architect or firm has been selected by the Serpentine Galleries for its annual summer commission, which started in 2000. An urban planner by training, Gates spent 15 years as a ceramicist, and his creations and installations have been shown around the world, from Los Angeles to London and Berlin. Ranging from clay sculptures to renovated buildings, Gates’ projects are celebrated for their merging of performance art with commentary on social history, particularly that of the African American experience. In addition to his involvement with art, activism, and community engagement, Gates is also a musician and a professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Arts. 

The Architect’s Journal broke the news yesterday about the Chicago-born artist’s commision to create the next pavilion in Kensington Gardens. The 47-year-old is known for his ongoing Dorchester Projects as part of the Rebuild Foundation, in which he purchases and renovates derelict buildings on Chicago’s South Side (where three-quarters of the city's African-American population lives), rescues and repurposes their scraps as art, and puts money back into the area by creating new community centers. With the first project on Dorchester Avenue, there are now several buildings in the area revitalized by Gates, including a former bank that is now an art gallery and archival space, called Stony Island Arts Bank.

In 2019 Gates headlined the Chicago Architecture Biennial under artistic director Yesomi Umolu, who, in January, Serpentine named as Director of Cultural Affairs, a newly formed position to oversee the museum’s curatorial and editorial operations.

This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, which was planned for 2020 but postponed to this summer because of the pandemic, will open to the public on June 11. Its design is by Counterspace, an all-woman-led group from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Gates’s first major UK exhibition was in December 2019 at Liverpool’s Tate museum. Called Amalgam, it explored race, territory, and inequality in the United States, and was previously shown at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo. Currently there is a video exhibit by Gates at New York’s New Museum, showing until June 6.