21st Serpentine Pavilion Opens in London

John Hill
7. June 2022
Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. (Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of Serpentine)

Black Chapel, Chicago artist Theaster Gates's design for the Serpentine Pavilion 2022, opens to the public in Kensington Gardens on Friday, June 10, with a new series of paintings by the artist inside the cylindrical space.

Design images of Black Chapel were revealed in February of this year, and from the photographs released by Serpentine it appears the pavilion — designed by Theaster Gates with the architectural support of David Adjaye — has stayed true to the renderings. The cylindrical form "references the bottle kilns of Stoke-on-Trent," per a Serpentine press release, alongside other structures with similar forms: "the beehive kilns of the Western United States, San Pietro and the Roman tempiettos, and traditional African structures, such as the Musgum mud huts of Cameroon, and the Kasubi Tombs of Kampala, Uganda." Black Chapel takes its name from a 2019 work by Gates that was commissioned by the late curator Okwui Enwezor for Haus der Kunst in Munich in 2019.
 

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. (Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of Serpentine)

The cylindrical space is illuminated by two openings for ingress and egress, plus an oculus. In front of the pavilion, and visible in the photo at top, is a bronze bell from the demolished St. Laurence Church on Chicago's South Side, where Gates and his Rebuild Foundation have restored old buildings for cultural purposes; the bell will be rung to announce live performances and other events taking place within Black Chapel. Also inside are a series of tar paintings specially made for the pavilion, inspired by the "meditative environment of the Rothko Chapel" in Houston, Texas. Per Serpentine, the seven paintings honor Gates's "father’s craft as a roofer by using roofing strategies including torch down, a method which requires an open flame to heat material and affix it to a surface."
 

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. (Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of Serpentine)
"For Black Chapel, I have created a suite of seven new tar paintings for the interior. With the recent passing of my father, the Pavilion resembles a memorial, not only to the legacy he shared with me, but also to the ways in which his vocation has become my vocation. Black Chapel seems to hold ways of working. Through space, the vessel produces ways of being together and ways of understanding each other by being adjacent to one another. Black Chapel is a vessel and a container for those who choose to gather."

Theaster Gates, June 2022

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. (Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of Serpentine)

Black Chapel is part of The Question of Clay, a multi-institution project that also comprised of exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery (September 2021 – January 2022), White Cube (September – October 2021), and a two-year long research project at the V&A. Black Chapel will be on display in London's Kensington Gardens from June 10 – October 16, 2022. Performances set to take place inside the pavilion include The Vernon Spring, The Choir of the London Oratory, Moses Boyd, Corinne Bailey Rae, and the Black Monks alongside workshops by Mud Gang Pottery C.I.C, and a tea ceremony by Keiko Uchida.
 

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