Serpentine Pavilion 10 Sep 2022 Free

Assistant Curator Chris Bayley leads a tour of Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel designed by Theaster Gates.

BSL interpretation is available on request for all our Saturday Talks.

About Serpentine Pavilion 2022

Designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel draws inspiration from many of the architectural typologies that ground the artist’s practice. The structure, realised with the support of Adjaye Associates, references the bottle kilns of Stoke-on-Trent, 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. The Pavilion’s circularity and volume echo the sacred forms of Hungarian round churches and the ring shouts, voodoo circles and roda de capoeira witnessed in the sacred practices of the African diaspora. 

Black Chapel is a site for contemplation and convening, set within the grounds of Serpentine in Kensington Gardens. The structure’s central oculus emanates a single source of light to create a sanctuary for reflection, refuge and conviviality. The project mirrors the artist’s ongoing engagement with ‘the vessel’ in his studio practice, and with space-making through his celebrated urban regeneration projects.  

Drawn to the meditative environment of the Rothko Chapel – which holds fourteen paintings by American artist Mark Rothko in Houston, Texas – Gates has produced a series of new tar paintings titled Seven Songs for Black Chapel. Creating a space that reflects the artist’s hand and sensibilities, seven paintings hang from the interior. In these works, Gates honours his 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.  

As part of Serpentine’s dynamic summer programme, the Pavilion becomes a platform for live performances and public convenings. An operating bronze bell – salvaged from St. Laurence, a landmark Catholic Church that once stood in Chicago’s South Side – is placed directly next to the entrance. Pointing to the erasure of spaces of convening and spiritual communion in urban communities, the historic bell is used to call, signal and announce performances and activations at the Pavilion throughout the summer.

Live Programme

Black Chapel is a platform for Serpentine’s programme throughout the summer. Responding to Gates’ multidisciplinary practice using space, architecture, sculpture, and material, guest curator Bianca A. Manu has partnered with the artist and the Serpentine curatorial team on a live programme centered around ideas of the sacred. The Serpentine Pavilion 2022 will host performances by 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.

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

Theaster Gates: The Question of Clay

Gates’ Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel is part of The Question of Clay, a multi-institution project which 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. The project seeks to investigate the making, labour and production of clay, as well as its collecting history, through exhibitions, performance and live interventions, with the aim of generating new knowledge, meaning and connections about the material.


Discover over 50 years of the Serpentine

From the architectural Pavilion and digital commissions to the ideas Marathons and research-led initiatives, explore our past projects and exhibitions.

View archive