Theaster Gates Unveils Black Chapel At Serpentine Galleries

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan, Courtesy: Serpentine.

Black Chapel, designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates is the 21st Serpentine Pavilion. It opened today 10 June 2022. It has been realised with the architectural support of Adjaye Associates with Goldman Sachs supporting the annual project for the eighth consecutive year. Conceived as a space for gathering, meditation and participation, with an emphasis on sacred music, Black Chapel becomes a platform for Serpentine’s live programme throughout the summer and beyond, offering reflection, connection and joy to the public.

To mark the opening of the Pavilion, Theaster Gates and Sir David Adjaye OBE will be in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist on 8 June 2022, which will explore their work in art, architecture, urbanism and space-making.

Black Chapel, the 21st Serpentine Pavilion: Black Chapel draws inspiration from many of the architectural typologies that ground the artist’s practice. The structure references the bottle kilns of Stoke-on-Trent in England, the beehive kilns of the Western United States, 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.

Theaster Gates © Rankin Photography.
Theaster Gates © Rankin Photography. Courtesy Serpentine

Drawn to the transcendental environment of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, Gates has produced a series of new tar paintings especially for Black Chapel.  Determined to create a space that reflects the artist’s hand and sensibilities, seven panels hang from the interior structure. In these works, Gates honours his father’s craft as a roofer and uses 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, stands next to the entrance of the Pavilion. Underscoring the erasure of spaces for convening and spiritual communion in urban communities, the historic bell acts as a call to assembly, congregation and contemplation throughout the summer’s events.

Theaster Gates said: “The name Black Chapel is important because it reflects the invisible parts of my artistic practice. 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. 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.”

Top Photo: Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan, Courtesy: Serpentine.

The Serpentine Pavilion 2022 is open every day from 10am to 6pm.

Gates’ Serpentine Pavilion 2022: Black Chapel follows The Question of Clay, a multi-institution project featuring exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery (September 2021 – January 2022), White Cube (September – October 2021) and a two-year long research project at the V&A.

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