Black Artists Retreat

“An enormous dreamer canny enough to make his outlandish ideas for the neighborhood a reality…[he is] a civic treasure on par with Chicago’s skyline and downtown museums.”
The New York Times

”…one of the most iconoclastic, and intellectually supple, figures in the contemporary art world”
The Financial Times (UK)

Theaster Gates is a charismatic figure in the contemporary art world, with a practice situated both within and without gallery walls, vacillating between aesthetics, urban planning, and activism. He creates sculptures with clay, tar, and conceptions of space, transforming the raw material of urban neighborhoods into radically reimagined black spaces for culture while establishing a virtuous circle between fine art and social progress.

Gates comes to the Armory to host his renowned Black Artists Retreat for the first time outside of Chicago. In celebration of this momentous gathering, the Retreat includes a public celebration with roller skating, DJs and performers, and other special guests amidst an installation of some of the artist’s famous “housebergs”—seven-feet-tall sculptural disco balls shaped like icebergs. This also marks the completion of the replacement of the wooden flooring of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, which includes recycled pine planks milled by Gates’s workforce and repurposed from his Chicago urban manufacturing renewal project, Dorchester Industries, amongst other sources. The Retreat weekend also intersects with our Interrogations of Form series with two public discussions featuring leading artists, scholars, and activists.

The Retreat recreates the kind of public-spirited dialogue that he associates with the civil rights movement of the sixties, aiming to make the current landscape of artistic practice stronger by amplifying creators and their projects. This year’s Retreat focuses on the numerous ways in which contemporary artists play with sound, hosting artists, filmmakers, musicians, and sound theorists to reflect on ways in which sound provides power and creates shared experiences that move creators forward.


Black Artists Retreat 2019: Sonic Imagination is made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation.

Image: Terry Adkins, Native Son (Circus), © The Estate of Terry Adkins / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of The Estate of Terry Adkins, Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

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Keynote Conversations:
October 11–12, 2019

Friday at 7:30pm
Saturday at 11:00am
Tickets: $25 (plus fees)

More Tickets On Sale Soon!

Sonic Soul Session #1:
October 12, 2019

Saturday from 7:00pm–11:00pm
Tickets: $25 (plus fees)
Free for Armory members

More Tickets On Sale Soon!

Wade Thompson Drill Hall & Historic Rooms

2019 Season Sponsors: