The 21st Serpentine Pavilion, Black Chapel, designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates opens today, on June 10, 2022. On display until the 16th of October 2022, the project is realized with the architectural support of Adjaye Associates with Goldman Sachs’ patronage. In 2021, the Pavilion events program was planned to reflect Gates’ concept of interlinking architecture and music, particularly emphasizing artistic explorations of monastic sounds and hymns. The pavilion will act as a platform for Serpentine’s live program throughout the summer, offering the public space of reflection, connection, and joy.
Black Chapel aims to go beyond architecture to create a space for shared emotional and spiritual experiences brought forth by sacred music and sacred arts. The form draws inspiration from the architectural typologies that ground the artist’s practice. It 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. 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 honors his father’s craft as a roofer and applies roofing strategies to fix the materials to the surface by using an open flame. The bronze bell placed by the entrance, salvaged from St Laurence Catholic Church, speaks of the diminishing presence of spaces for convening and spiritual communion in urban communities. It represents a call to assembly, congregation, and contemplation.
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. - Theaster Gates
Born in 1973, Theaster Gates creates works that engage with spatial theory, land development, sculpture, and performance. The artist is dedicated to redeeming spaces that have been left behind, drawing inspiration and training from urban planning and preservation practices. He uses the notion of Black space as a formal exercise defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. The Rebuild Foundation, created by Gates in 2010, is a non-profit platform for art and cultural development that supports artists and strengthens communities through free arts programming and innovative cultural amenities on Chicago’s South Side. Among other awards, In 2020, Gates received the Crystal Award for his leadership in creating sustainable communities.
Black Chapel is designed to minimize its carbon footprint and environmental impact. The predominantly timber structure is built with sustainably sourced materials. The reusability of the installation was also taken into consideration, as the structure is fully demountable. White the pavilion begins its life in the Kensington gardens, it will be re-sited to a permanent location in the future.
The Serpentine Pavilion is an annual architectural and design exhibition showcasing temporary installations from emerging talents. It began in 2000 with Zaha Hadid, and since then, it has grown into one of the most anticipated recurring events in the architectural world. Last year Counterspace, led by Sumayya Valley (South Africa), reinterpreted the shapes of London into the structure. Frida Escobedo (Mexico), Diébédo Francis Kéré (Burkina Faso), and Bjarke Ingels (Denmark) have all been commissioned, with the latter, Bjarke Ingles’s 2016 Pavilion being the most visited architectural exhibition to date. This year’s pavilion follows previous commissions by Olafur Eliasson with Kjetil Thorsen in 2006 and Ai Weiwei with Herzog & de Meuron in 2012, among other cultural figures. The Serpentine Pavilion 2022 is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.