Black Chapel - the 21st pavilion to be unveiled in Kensington Gardens

Theaster Gates unveiled his intriguing timber cylinder pavilion, drawing inspiration from many of the architectural typologies that inspire the artist’s practice.

The Serpentine Galleries located in Kensington Gardens are a free-entry art gallery hosting world-renowned temporary exhibitions on either side of The Serpentine Lake. Their latest pavilion unveiling is Black Chapel, designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, who is the first non-architect to be chosen to design the Serpentine Pavilion. Gate’s creation is the 21st pavilion to be built since the first creation in 2000.

Black Chapel is a timber cylinder, with a diameter of 16 metres and a height of 10.7 metres it is the largest Serpentine Pavilion to date. It is clad in dark roofing membrane, and its interior is divided by an off-centre wall into 2 areas - a larger and a smaller section. It was designed by Gates to be a peaceful space within the London park, "where one could rest from the pressures of the day and spend time in solitude". Hanging within the circular pavilion is a series of seven paintings made from tar, created specifically for the space. In these works, Gates honours his father’s craft as a roofer by using roofing strategies including torch down, a method that requires an open flame to heat material and affix it to a surface.

“Since the time I was invited to consider a commission for Serpentine, Black Chapel has evolved several times” said Theaster Gates, in an official statement. “What has remained consistent is a desire to pay homage to craft and manufacturing traditions, found especially on the African continent, in England, and in the United States. These architectural forms, and the varying ways that they hold space, for people and for sacred moments, matter to me. I’m invested in how these forms produce energy and amplify sound, creating space for the sonic and the silent.” 

The temporary pavilion will be open to the public from the 10th of June until October 16th. As is tradition, there will be plenty to see and do, with the central space playing host to a series of live events, including experimental music performances, clay workshops, Japanese tea ceremonies, "sonic interventions" and panel discussions.

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