Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum at the AGO

Image courtesy of AGO
Image courtesy of AGO

Exhibition opens in Toronto this summer with free artist talk and performance by legendary Chicago House DJ Terry Hunter

Contemporary American artist Theaster Gates makes his Canadian debut this summer with a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). In a series of large-scale installations, Gates creates symbolic spaces in the tradition of the house museum, each dedicated to the potential of Black creativity and freedom – past, present and future. Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum opens in Toronto on July 21, 2016 and runs until Oct. 30, 2016, filling the entire fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower.

Curated by Kitty Scott, the AGO’s Carol and Morton Rapp Curator, Modern & Contemporary Art, the exhibition upends the conservative customs associated with house museums, which are so often connected to narrow ideas of cultural heritage and national identity.

“By reimagining the traditional house museum and locating it inside the AGO, Gates calls attention to the need to preserve the accomplishments of Black people, whether famous or lesser known,” says Kitty Scott. “His house museums commemorate their legacies and spaces and, in this reinvention, ask vital questions about how we remember Black creativity and freedom – and how we envision their future.”

Incorporating sound, dance, video, sculpture and paintings, How to Build a House Museum is organized as six symbolic houses. Each house is dedicated to a different person or idea, such as legendary Chicago house music producer DJ Frankie Knuckles, blues musician Muddy Waters, and bricklayer George Black. The exhibition culminates in a club outfitted with a skeletal DJ booth, rotating disco ball and Gates’s multichannel video House Heads Liberation Training (2016), which creates a space for a moving body. 


To mark the opening of the exhibition, the AGO will throw a free house party on July 20, 2016. Featuring an artist talk by Gates and performance by celebrated Chicago House DJ Terry Hunter, the event is free but tickets but must be booked online in advance at Party-goers will have a special sneak peek of the exhibition that evening from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.


Theaster Gates: How to Build A House Museum is included with the price of general admission and is free to AGO members. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at