Categories: Articles, Press

WASHINGTON, D.C.–October 12, 2023—Today the National Building Museum announced that Theaster Gates, world-renowned artist and social innovator, is the 25th recipient of the Museum’s annual Vincent Scully Prize. Established in 1999, the Scully Prize recognizes excellence in practice, scholarship, or criticism in architecture, historic preservation, and urban design. He joins esteemed past recipients, including Dolores Hayden, Mabel O. Wilson, Elizabeth Meyer, and Robert Campbell.

September 29, 2020 – Chicago, IL – Theaster Gates at his Studio – Lyndon French

A public celebration to present the award to Gates will be held on Friday, November 3, 2023 from 5:30 to 8 pm at the National Building Museum. The evening includes an award presentation, a conversation with Gates, Germane Barnes, principal and founder of Studio Barnes, and Jessica Bell Brown, curator and department head for contemporary art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, followed by a reception with curated menu.

Gates’ unique global practice, which is rooted in Chicago, translates the intricacies of Blackness through space theory and land development, sculpture, and performance. Through the expansiveness of his approach as a thinker, maker, and builder, he extends the role of the artist as an agent of change. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, Gates redeems spaces that have been left behind, focusing on the possibility of the “life within things.” Twice named as one of the 100 most powerful people in the art world by ArtReview, Gates has pioneered a new model of land art and community investment that has been celebrated, revered and held as a sterling example by city planners, architects, artists and innovators alike.

“Theaster’s work is very much in the spirit of Vincent Scully’s scholarship, melding art, architecture, and urban design,” said Aileen Fuchs, president and executive director of the National Building Museum. “His pioneering approach to cultural preservation and community building aligns so well with the Museum’s Institutional Pillars of Innovation and Equity and we are thrilled to recognize his achievements and impact with this award.”

The Vincent Scully Prize recipient is selected by a jury, including members Paul Goldberger, Nancy Levinson, Stephen Luoni, Walter Hood and led by chair Ellen Dunham-Jones.

Among Gates’s innovative efforts that impressed the jury and solidified his selection as the Scully-award recipient is his collecting practice, which was first made public in Chicago in 2009 with the acquisition of the Prairie Avenue Bookshop Archive. When the iconic Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed its doors, Gates acquired 14,000 volumes and moved them into a renovated house that’s part of a group of buildings formerly known as the Dorchester Projects. He then procured 60,000 glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago’s art history department and 10,000 LPs from a neighborhood record store, Dr. Wax. His private and public collecting practice has since grown to include the record collections of Olympian Jesse Owens, potter and ceramacist Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly, and the Godfather of House Music Frankie Knuckles’ personal archive of music; over 15,000 objects from the legendary Johnson Publishing Company offices including books, periodicals, ephemera, paintings, and sculptures; and a collection of approximately 4,000 objects of “negrobilia” that make use of stereotypical images of black people from Ana and Ed J. Williams. By creating a shared archive of media made increasingly obsolescent by digitization, Gates’ is committed to giving “these objects another life” and amplifying the value, histories, and stories that these objects hold and tell. In 2010, Gates created the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation that supports artists and strengthens communities through free arts programming and innovative cultural amenities in the Grand Crossing neighborhood of the South Side of Chicago. Through his Foundation, Gates has rescued more than 40 buildings from abandonment and is actively developing a constellation of cultural spaces that demonstrate the intelligence, excellence, beauty, and talent that lives on the South Side.

IMAGES: Images are available HERE.

National Building Museum: Karen Baratz,, 240.497.1811

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