Theaster Gates, the First Non-Architect to Be Chosen for the Serpentine Pavilion Commission, Unveils the Community-Oriented ‘Black Chapel’

Jun 7, 2022

The 21st Serpentine Pavilion designed by artist Theaster Gates will open to the public in London on Friday. Gates is the first non-architect to be awarded the estimable commission, though it was executed with the help of starchitect David Adjaye and associates. The pavilion’s debut will kick off a summer of programming that includes music performances, workshops, and other events clustered around the project.

Titled Black Chapel, the black cylindrical building is an ode to the artist’s late father, who was a roofer, and is also inspired by a breadth of architectural and artistic touchstones including the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the bottle kins that mark the industrial landscape of Stoke-on-Trent in England, Musgum mud huts in Cameroon, and the circular chapels of San Pietro.

Inside, an oculus allows light to bleed into the cavernous space, which is adorned with seven of Gates’s tar paintings, in another homage to his father’s work.

Outside stands a bronze bell the artist salvaged from the site of St. Laurence Catholic Church, which was once a landmark in Chicago’s South Side, where Gates’s Rebuild Foundation is located. The bell “acts as a call to assembly, congregation, and contemplation” while also serving as a reminder of the widespread erasure of these community sites and the people they served.

“The name Black Chapel is important because it reflects the invisible parts of my artistic practice,” Gates said in a statement. “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.”

See more pictures of Black Chapel below. 

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.

Theaster Gates. © Rankin Photography.

The Serpentine Pavilion is open every day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., from June 10–October 16.