Prada presents “China Cabinet”, an exhibition project by the artist Theaster Gates, with the support of Fondazione Prada. The exhibition yes will take place from 11 March to 23 May 2021 in Prada Rong Zhai, a historic Shanghai residence built in 1918, restored by Prada and reopened in October 2017.
Invited to rethink the spaces of Prada Rong Zhai through a unprecedented perspective, Theaster Gates exhibits his ceramic works and reveals the connections that exist between his activity as a potter and that of visual artist, performer, professor, urban planner and activist social. For “China Cabinet” Gates came up with a story in three chapters that unfolds in the rooms on the first floor of the building. In course of the narration the installation takes on different configurations and the role of the artist undergoes an evolution: from guest, to ghost, to House owner.
From the subject of an exhibition that examines the roots of his creative process, the artist becomes the subject who reveals the economic potential and the productive context of his own work, to assume the role of the new possible owner of Prada Rong Zhai. In the first chapter, the artist, as a guest, presents in six showcases the themes underlying his research. Inside the visitors they can trace the typical elements of his artistic practice: the reuse of architectural construction materials and techniques, i references to craftsmanship and spirituality, the use of a stereotyped imagery associated with the African American community, the use of symbols from civil rights movements and the presence of archival material such as magazines, books, musical and film supports that make up the universe of Gates. The windows have a dual nature: personal and collective. Inside, the ceramics are displayed as if they were still in his home-studio.
At Prada Rong Zhai, objects are set up as motionless presences waiting to become the central figures of a new narrative.
The second phase of the exhibition refers to the role of the artist as interlocutor. Gates reveals the complexity of his relationship with the ceramics, characterized by both intellectual and material aspects, in a site-specific installation divided into two sections. The first is a precise and clear presentation of his works distributed throughout the space as if they were inside an antique Chinese porcelain shop. The second part is a reconstruction of her laboratory which it includes numerous plates, glasses, bowls, vases and other functional objects of ceramics, along with works of art created using similar techniques. The narrative ends with the complete occupation of Prada Rong Zhai by the artist who exhibits his works as if they were inside a private home. At the end of the itinerary, the artist transforms from a visitor to a generous homeowner, eager to share the comfort and beauty of his lovingly furnished residence with guests.