A salvaged church bell is set to ring as sunlight pours through an open roof of Theaster Gates’s Serpentine Pavilion, plans for which were revealed today by the Chicago-based artist. That work, titled Black Chapel, will be realized by the Serpentine Galleries in London this summer, and will resemble a wooden structure inspired by the bottle-shaped pottery kilns of the industrial Stoke-on-Trent, paying homage to British craft and manufacturing traditions.
Constructed with the architectural support of Adjaye Associates, the pavilion will open to the public on June 10 in London’s Kensington Gardens. The space will host live music performances, poetry, and dance with a focus on public engagements. A single source of light will filter through an oculus while at the entrance, a bell saved from the demolished St. Laurence Church on Chicago’s South Side will be used “to call, signal and announce performances and activations.”
“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.”
The pavilion will be constructed from lightweight, sustainably sourced materials and is fully demountable. After its exhibition in Kensington, it will be re-sited to a permanent location.
Over decades, Gates has utilized urban planning and preservation as a means of exploring collective action. He has also harnessed archive-keeping as a means of preserving the past, present, and future of the Black experience. Through the Rebuild Foundation, he has invested heavily in revitalizing the art scene in Chicago’s South Side through a series of architectural infinitives, most of which reimagine derelict spaces as institutions for creation and communion.