A former chapel in Clapham is transformed into an homage to the queerest of writers
In September 2017 the artists David McDermott and Peter McGough turned the Russell Chapel on West 13th Street in Manhattan into The Oscar Wilde Temple. Inside, paintings and sculptures by the pair honoured Wilde and victims of homophobia and AIDS. Now the project has arrived in London, taking over the headquarters of the not-for-profit independent art organisation Studio Voltaire, itself housed in a decommissioned Victorian chapel.
In the main gallery, a series of large-scale oil paintings represent the events that led Wilde to end up in Reading Gaol, where he wrote the eponymous Ballad. The artists describe these as a cycle of 14 devotional works that tell the story of Wilde’s arrest, trial and imprisonment. They are hung with other paintings from the artists’ 30-year practice that demonstrate their uniquely decorative form of radicalism.
The project, 20 years in the making, offers a total transformation of the space that includes hand-printed period wallpaper and dado panels from specialist Bradbury & Bradbury, emblazoned with sunflowers (among Oscar’s favourites), and ‘stained-glass’ windows – actually printed gels that are then leaded – featuring green carnations and inspired by the Aesthetic movement. The chapel will also host non-religious ceremonies and profits will go to the Albert Kennedy Trust, which helps LGBQT+ teenagers find work, housing and support.
The Oscar Wilde Temple is open at Studio Voltaire, London SW4 7JR to 31 March 2019.