In 2015, in Venice, a video installation managed to bring the Biennial out of the boredom in which the mediocrity of the exhibited works plunged it. With Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr (2014), the 41-year-old American artist Theaster Gates performed a requiem-style tribute at St. Laurence Church, built in Chicago in 1911 by the architect Joseph Molitor, closed in 2002, and destroyed three years later by promoters who "forgot" to have it classified as a historic monument. The installation was dominated by the quality of the video (the ballet of two men in the ruins of a church) and the soundtrack: a gospel song accompanied by a cello, performed by two members of the Black Monks of Mississippi , the music group of Gates.
But it was not just this elegant and sensitive work. The biography of Theaster Gates revealed that this African-American is a notorious activist, a former potter, a professor at the University of Chicago, and that he is not content, like so many other contemporary artists, with a virtuous indignation. Gates founded a humanitarian organization, the Rebuild Foundation, to bring culture and art to the city's underprivileged neighborhoods. And he himself, through the sale of his sculptures, buys old buildings that he recycles into libraries or cinemas. An admirable man, then.