He is the first artist to design the annual Serpentine Pavilion
‘Ecstasy can happen if you’re courageous and open enough to receive it,’ preaches Theaster Gates before whacking a large bronze bell salvaged from a Chicago church to inaugurate the summer programme at his new Serpentine Pavilion.
He is referring not only to this temporary retreat – a literal and figurative platform for quiet respite, performance and chance encounters – but to his artistic practice, which has spread joy throughout his hometown Chicago and his’ second home’ London.
An accomplished potter, urbanist and artistic polymath, Gates has a preoccupation with spaces of ecstasy. Professionally, he is best known for rejuvenating, decorating and animating communal spaces where Black people can interact safely and creatively. In this way, he seems an obvious choice as the first non-architect to design a summer pavilion for the Serpentine Galleries, since the first was built by Zaha Hadid 22 years ago. (Architect David Adjaye acted as a consultant on the project.)