Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel by Theaster Gates
Sponsored by Goldman Sachs
Designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, the 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 will be used to call, signal and announce performances and activations at the Pavilion throughout the summer.
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.
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, Freya Bramble-Carter and Phoebe Colling-James, 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.
Learn more about the 2022 Pavilion and previous editions on Bloomberg Connects, the free mobile app featuring guides to over 70 museums, galleries, sculpture parks, gardens, and cultural spaces.
- Artist Biography
Theaster Gates (b. 1973) creates works that engage with space theory, land development, sculpture and performance. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, the artist redeems spaces that have been left behind. His work contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise, one defined by collective desire, artistic agency and the tactics of a pragmatist.
In 2010, Gates created the Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit platform for art, cultural development and neighbourhood transformation that supports artists and strengthens communities through free arts programming and innovative cultural amenities on Chicago’s South Side.
Gates has exhibited and performed at The Victoria and Albert Museum (2021), London, UK; Whitechapel Gallery (2013 and 2021), London, UK; Tate Liverpool, UK (2020); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2019); Palais de Tokyo Paris, France (2019); Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany (2018); Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2018); National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA (2017); Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2016); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2013) and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012).
Gates is the twelfth recipient of the Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts (2021). In 2020, Gates received the Crystal Award for his leadership in creating sustainable communities. He was the winner of the Artes Mundi 6 Prize and a recipient of the Légion d’Honneur in 2017. He was awarded the Nasher Prize for Sculpture 2018, as well as the Urban Land Institute’s J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Gates is a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts and serves as the Senior Advisor for Cultural Innovation and Advisor to the Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy. Gates is currently included in A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration at the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, Mississippi from April 9 – September 11, 2022; and in STILL ALIVE, featured at Aichi Triennale, Tokoname, Japan from July 30 – October 10, 2022.
- Curated by
Yesomi Umolu, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Public Practice
Natalia Grabowska, Project’s Curator
Chris Bayley, Assistant Curator
Bianca A. Manu, Guest Curator, Live Programme
Uma Karavadra, Curatorial Assistant, Live Programme