The Black Chapel, the 21st Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, will open on Friday.
Adjaye Associates provided the architectural support for Black Chapel, while Goldman Sachs sponsored the annual initiative for the ninth year in a row.
The Black Chapel, designed as a location for gathering, meditation, and involvement with a focus on sacred music, serves as a platform for Serpentine’s live program throughout the summer and beyond, providing the public with opportunities for thought, connection, and joy.
Theaster Gates’ practice is grounded in numerous architectural typologies, and his Chapel is no exception.
The structure is inspired by traditional African building structures such as the Museum mud huts of Cameroon and the Kasabi Tombs of Kampala, Uganda, as well as bottle kilns in Stoke-on-Trent, England; beehive kilns in the Western United States; San Pietro and the Roman tempiettos; and San Pietro and the Roman tempiettos.
Gates has created a series of new tar paintings specifically for Black Chapel, inspired by the transcendental ambiance of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.
Seven panels dangle from the internal structure, determined to create an environment that represents the artist’s hand and sensibilities.
In these pieces, Gates pays homage to his father’s trade as a roofer by employing roofing techniques such as torch down, which involves heating the material and affixing it to the surface with an open flame.
Outside, a bronze bell was retrieved from the site of St. Laurence Catholic Church, which was once a landmark on Chicago’s South Side and is now home to Gates’ Rebuild Foundation.
The bell serves as a call to assembly, congregation, and reflection throughout the summer’s events, highlighting the elimination of sites for assembling and spiritual connection in urban communities.
The Serpentine Pavilion 2022 is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day.
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”, he added.