Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Award 2023 goes to Theaster Gates

The third Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Award is given to Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates. The award recipient was selected by artist Sasha Huber and architect Samuli Woolston, at the request of the Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation.

Gates’s practice encompasses a wide range of art forms from performance and painting to sculptures. “In Theaster Gates’s powerfully poetic, multifaceted art practice I am moved by the way he crafts unique, tangible worlds, vessels, and chapels of care, where he holds safe spaces for collectively celebrating and amplifying the voices of the Black community at home in the US and transatlantically, making the world a better place”, says Huber.

“He uses the monetary capital available in the art world to support local social capital, not in an abstract way, as is often claimed by artists, but directly, actually, and honestly,” Samuli Woolston sums up.

Dorchester Projects, Chicago, 2014. Image: Sara Pooley. Courtesy Rebuild Foundation.

Gates works as a professor and Special Advisor to the President for Arts Initiatives at the University of Chicago, and he is the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation. Rebuild focuses on the creative redemption and regeneration of vacant property and works actively for the benefit of the local Chicago community. Gates’s work has also been widely presented outside the United States, for example at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Venice Biennale, and Documenta in Kassel. He was also seen in Helsinki when the body of work created with The Black Monks of Mississippi musical ensemble was presented at the IHME Days art festival in 2017.

The Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Award is a tribute to high-level professionalism that develops new design thinking, to material know-how, and to an understanding of design traditions.