Theaster Gates: Monument in Waiting

Previously installed at the Parrish Art Museum, as seen above, the sculpture is now on view at Drexel. Theaster Gates, Monument in Waiting, 2020. Credit: Timothy Schenck. Courtesy GRAY, Chicago/New York.

June 2022 – July 2023

Forman Arts Initiative is pleased to join Philadelphia Contemporary, and Drexel University to co-present Monument in Waiting, courtesy of the artist and GRAY Gallery, Chicago/New York.

Created during the turbulent summer of 2020 for the exhibition “Field of Dreams” at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York—Theaster Gates’ Monument in Waiting will be on view on Drexel University’s campus for one year, with a series of corresponding programs to be announced in the fall.

Comprised of reclaimed stone plinths and granite tiles devoid of a figure, Monument in Waiting evokes a dismantled public forum. The work responds to ongoing dialogue about preservation and erasure, collective memory and public scrutiny of historical figures and monuments, particularly those that reinforce systems of oppression. This tribute, like much of Gates’ work, asks viewers to reconsider the ways in which monuments are destroyed, preserved or adapted to enshrine moments and figures in our history. 

With Monument in Waiting, Gates responds to the removal of Confederate and colonialist monuments and acknowledges the histories of injustice. The artist draws viewers through the installation, into a space for confronting these historical truths, and of aspiring collectively toward a future built upon equal justice. Gates interrogates long-held notions of heroism, fashioning pedestals that allow us to reconsider and expand the possibilities for valiant acts. As an inscription engraved on one of the plinths reads, “Until real heroes bloom, this dusty plinth will wait.”

The piece will remain installed for one year. Following its unveiling this summer, a series of corresponding programs will be announced in the fall. 

Theaster Gates, Monument in Waiting (detail) 2020. Credit: Timothy Schenck. Courtesy GRAY, Chiacgo/New York.

My monument work, from Black Chapel to this non-monument in Philadelphia, has me grappling with the best indicators of temporal markers. Monuments spatially and symbolically mark time and help us conjure meaning. Honoring the truths of people or a moment is necessary soul work for the nation. I’m glad to be part of that.

                                                                                                                                                  —Theaster Gates

Photo Courtesy of Rankin Photography Ltd.

About the Artist

Theaster Gates (b. 1973) was born and raised in Chicago, where he currently lives and works. Drawing from his earlier vocational pursuits in public service, urban planning, and religious studies, Gates works to redeem spaces that have been left behind, centering his practice on the possibility of the “life within things.”

Over the past decade, Gates has demonstrated the intricacy of Blackness through space theory and land development, sculpture, and performance. Through the expansiveness of his approach as a thinker, maker, and builder, he expands the role of the artist as an agent of change. His performance practice, and visual works find roots in Black knowledge, history, and archives. 

With a celebrated stronghold in Chicago, Gates’s career has seen international recognition from his participation in the Whitney Biennial (2010), documenta 13 (2012), and the Venice Biennale (2015), to major museum exhibitions all over the world. 

Gates has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the twelfth Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts (2022); an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2021); the World Economic Forum Crystal Award (2020); J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development (2018); Nasher Sculpture Prize (2018); Sprengel Museum Kurt Schwitters Prize (2017); and Artes Mundi 6 Prize (2015). Public collections include Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among many others.

The installation will be located at Drexel University’s Korman Family Quad on 33rd Street between Chestnut and Market in Philadelphia, PA.

Press Release