Black Chapel

Published: 04/07/2022 By Allan Fuller

This year’s annual Serpentine Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens has been designed by Theaster Gates, born in 1973, he is an American social practice installation artist and a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he still lives and works. 

Gates' work has been shown at major museums and galleries internationally and deals with urban planning, religious space, and craft. He works to revitalize underserved neighborhoods by combining urban planning and art practices. Gates' art practice responds to disinvestment in African-American urban communities, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, addresses the importance of formal archives for remembering and valuing Black cultural forms, and disrupts artistic canons, especially those of post-painterly abstraction and colour field painting.

He has designed the installation as as a space of deep reflection. It is the winner of the 21st such architectural commission at the Serpentine Gallery. 

Together with Adjaye Associates, the Chicago-based artist created a cylindrical, chapel-like structure for this year's commission as a peaceful space "where one could rest from the pressures of the day and spend time in solitude". 

Called Black Chapel, the 10-meter-tall pavilion is made mostly of blackened timber and features a conical roof structure with an oculus in its centre. The form references the bottle kilns of Stoke-on-Trent, Bramante's 16th-century Tempietto in Rome and African structures such as the Musgum mud huts of Cameroon.