2022 Serpentine Pavilion by Chicago artist Theaster Gates opens in Hyde Park
Books & Exhibitions
“The name Black Chapel is important because it reflects the invisible parts of my artistic practice,” begins Theaster Gates. “It acknowledges the role that sacred music and the sacred arts have had on my practice, and the collective quality of these emotional and communal initiatives,” sayss the Chicago-based artist at the opening of his winning design for the 21st Serpentine Pavilion in London.
One of the highlights in the summer’s cultural season, the annual project sees the Serpentine Galleries organise for an architectural structure to be erected in Kensington Gardens during the summer month, responding to the surrounding Hyde Park, and as a public space to meet in, interact with and generally enjoy. Gates continues: “Black Chapel also suggests that in these times there could be a space where one could rest from the pressures of the day and spend time in quietude. I have always wanted to build spaces that consider the power of sound and music as a healing mechanism and emotive force that allows people to enter a space of deep reflection and deep participation.”
The artist intends this to be a place for meditation but also participation, with an emphasis on the sacred music he refers to. Much like previous Pavilions, the idea is for Black Chapel to be a platform for the Serpentine Galleries’ lively programme of events – talks, music, food and drink – throughout the summer and beyond. The Pavilion concept tends to respond to what’s going on in the word, many make observations on current discourses, which resonates with our studio, Spinach Branding, where we try to stay informed and engaged with concerns and debates.
Black Chapel’s structure, realised with the architectural support of Adjaye Associates, draws inspiration from many of the architectural typologies that ground the artist’s practice, referencing the bottle kilns of Stoke-on-Trent in the UK, the beehive kilns of the western US, San Pietro and the Roman tempiettos and traditional African building structures such as the Musgum mud huts of Cameroon and the Kasabi Tombs of Kampala, Uganda.
Drawn to the transcendental environment of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, Gates has produced a series of new tar paintings especially for this project. Determined to create a space that reflects his hand and sensibilities, seven panels hang from the interior structure. In these works, Gates honours his father’s craft as a roofer, while using roofing strategies and torch down, which requires an open flame to heat the material and affix it to the surface.
An operating bronze bell, salvaged from St. Laurence, a landmark Catholic Church that once stood in Chicago’s South Side where the artist grew up, stands next to the entrance of the Pavilion to acts as a call to assembly, congregation and contemplation throughout the summer’s events.
Black Chapel opened to the public on 10 June 2022 to host a series of talks and discussions, as well as live music throughout the summer months.
All images: Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates ©Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan ©Serpentine.
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