Over the weekend, Theaster Gates received the Nasher Sculpture Prize, the richest prize in sculpture. Gates is the first American artist and the first African-American to win the $100,000 award. Unlike previous winners, Gates didn’t simply express gratitude or ponder the nature of art, he preached, he inspired, he cracked jokes, he caused a ruckus.
The Nasher Sculpture Prize doesn’t just come with a fancy awards gala. There are public panels, symposia and a lecture – or in the case of Theaster Gates, a town hall meeting Friday at the Wyly Theatre. At one point, Gates acknowledged the first two Nasher winners: the Frenchman Pierre Huyghe and the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, who was in the audience. Both had been significant influences on him, and his voice cracked as he said it was hard to express what it meant to join “the greatest living artists in the world.”