Therme Art Program

Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates Portrait

Theaster Gates. © Rankin Photography

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 works contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise, one defined by collective desire, artistic agency and the tactics of a pragmatist.

Marking the Fifth Consecutive Year of Therme’s Partnership with Serpentine, Therme Group supported the realisation of Theaster Gate’s 2022 Serpentine Pavilion, Black Chapel, designed in partnership with Adjaye Associates. The ongoing collaboration continues to explore innovative expressions in art and architecture as drivers of wellbeing, contemplation and healing. For Black Chapel, Gates brought to life a space for gathering, meditation and interaction, which facilitated a summer-long series of performances and activations, and in which he unveiled an exciting new series of tar paintings.

The name Black Chapel is important because it reflects the invisible parts of my artistic practice. 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. I have always wanted to build spaces that consider the power of sound and music as a healing mechanism and emotive force that allows people to enter a space of deep reflection and/or deep participation. — Theaster Gates

Black Chapel draws its inspiration from the historic great kilns of Stoke-on-Trent, paying homage to British craft and manufacturing traditions. Primarily crafted of wood, the Pavilion’s design alludes to the performative and meditative qualities of a small chapel. A bell from the demolished St. Laurence Church on Chicago’s South Side, placed next to the entrance of the Pavilion, is used to announce the summer’s performances and activations. Its symbolism is rooted in the erasure of environments for spiritual communion and gathering available to urban communities, and the possibility to reclaim these spaces. A single source of light from an oculus creates a sanctuary-like environment for reflection and communion.



The interior of Black Chapel was partially inspired by the meditative environment of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, in which fourteen paintings by Mark Rothko are housed. Gates has produced a new series of tar paintings for the Pavilion, titled, Seven Songs, which pay homage to his father’s craft as a roofer, incorporating roofing strategies and methods such as torch down, in which an open flame is used to heat materials and bind them to surfaces. Conceived as a platform for participation and performances, with an emphasis on music and public engagement, Black Chapel extends the Gates’ practice of space-making through vernacular urban and architectural interventions.

Read more on this collaboration here:

Black Chapel by Theaster Gates


In partnership with:

Serpentine, Therme Group