Former Victorian chapel converted into temple to Oscar Wilde

A former Victorian chapel has been converted into a temple celebrating Oscar Wilde.

The Oscar Wilde Temple is set to be unveiled as part of an art installation honouring the queer hero, who was famously imprisoned for homosexuality.

Celebrated artists David McDermott and Peter McGough (McDermott & McGough) created the work at Studio Voltaire, which is housed in a Victorian former Methodist Chapel in Clapham, South London.

The Oscar Wilde Temple (Supplied/Elisabeth Bernstein)

McDermott & McGough, The Stations of Reading Gaol (VI. Oscar Wilde in Prison), 1917, MMXVII Oil and gold leaf on linen 24 x 18 inches (Courtesy of the artists)

A release explains the space “will be dramatically transformed to create an environment that entirely celebrates the Irish poet and author.”

It adds: “Period wallpaper, stained glass windows, hangings and 19th century chandeliers and furniture adorn the space, evoking the provocative sensuousness of the Aesthetic Movement. The installation includes key works from the artists’ 30–year practice as well as a series of new paintings and sculptures.”

“The Oscar Wilde Temple will honour key contemporary LGBTQ+ martyrs whose sacrifices have contributed to pivotal awareness and change, including Jody Dobrowski, Xulhaz Mannan, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson and Alan Turing.

“A special chantry will pay respect to those lost in the AIDS crisis, including a Book of Remembrance – inviting visitors to reflect on departed friends and family, and record their personal stories.”

McDermott & McGough, The Green Carnation, Oscar Wilde, O.W. C.33, 1923, Oil on Linen, 1994 (Courtesy of the Artists)

The Oscar Wilde Temple, which will open for six months from October 3, will be free to visit and open to “all faiths and non-believers alike.”

It can also be booked “for LGBTQ+ marriage celebrations, naming ceremonies, vow renewals, memorials and markings of other important occasions”, with proceeds from private events going towards LGBT homelessness charity the Albert Kennedy Trust.

Joe Scotland, Director of Studio Voltaire, said: “Not only is The Oscar Wilde Temple an incredible work of art, the project also holds an important and timely message. While LGBTQ+ people might be currently experiencing more acceptance and opportunities – we still have a long way to go.

“The pivotal work of our partner The Albert Kennedy Trust verifies the inequalities and abuses which LGBTQ+ communities can face throughout their lives. The Oscar Wilde Temple is an important symbol of resistance and solidarity, which we welcome all to celebrate in.”

McDermott & McGough, Flower 2, 2018, Oil on canvas, 50.8 x 40.6cm (Courtesy of the artists)

The famous playwright and poet, who had a string of male lovers, was famously arrested and sent to Reading Gaol in 1895 for for gross indecency with men, under the UK’s historic anti-gay laws.

Wilde served two years behind bars in Reading Gaol, penning the work ‘De Profundis’ in prison.

His time in prison was also the basis for his final ever work ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’. a long poem that reflects on the harsh rhythms of his daily prison life.

Reading Gaol, the former prison where Oscar Wilde was locked up, briefly re-opened its doors as part of an art exhibition dedicated to him in 2016.

The Oscar Wilde Temple is open from October 3, 2018 to March 31, 2019.