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Theaster Gates


“The hardware store is no longer a hardware store, it is the truth of a past.”  - Theaster Gates

Coinciding with the presentation of Hardware Store Painting (2021-2022) at Art Basel Unlimited, Theaster Gates ruminates on the legacy of the Southside community cornerstone Halsted Hardware, and the process of preserving value and establishing order from the relics of its dissolution.

Adding to the discourse, Professor and Cultural Theorist Romi Crawford helps to assert the significance of Gates's interplay with the hardware store materials and interprets the nature of disused objects as they exist in new contexts. The video also presents for the first time excerpts from a public discussion between the artist and Professor and Curator Dieter Roelstraete. In their dialogue, Gates expounds on the ample history of Hardware Store Painting and his persistent quest to reframe the narratives attributed to the Southside of Chicago.

First conceived in 2021, Gates’s large-scale installation originates from the artist’s ongoing engagement with a family-owned hardware store formerly located on Chicago’s South Side. Gates, whose practice is deeply invested in the material preservation of neglected social and cultural histories, acquired the store and all of its merchandise in 2014. Through material and conceptual interpositions, Gates memorializes the history of a changing urban landscape and offers a repository and material testimony to a bygone era. Amassing and repurposing what physical inventory remained from the store, Gates’s monumental construction exposes the aesthetic potential of utilitarian items to be fundamentally didactic, carrying with them the legacy of the everyday worker and shopkeeper even after the objects themselves become cast aside or obsolete.

Video © GRAY, Chicago/New York and Theaster Gates Studio. Production by Parallax. Music by Jason Moran.