Holy order: Bea Bonafini creates an artist’s chapel in London

Room with white walls
Installation view of Bea Bonafini’s exhibition, ‘Dovetail’s Nest’, at the Zabludowicz Collection in London
(Image credit: Zabludowicz Collection)

‘There should be more art shows in chapels’ quips the caption on one of Italian artist Bea Bonafini’s recent Instagram posts of the Fitzrovia Chapel in London. With her solo show ‘Dovetail’s Nest’ at the Zabludowicz Collection, she’s done just that – transforming the museum’s Methodist chapel into a non-religious ‘quasi-domestic’ space to explore her own complex relationship with religious iconography.

‘You realise that it’s brainwashing,’ Bonafini explains of the intensely violent scenes found in churches. ‘In “Dovetail’s Nest”, I wanted to create links both to sacred and domestic spaces.’ Bonafini questions the “brainwashing” elements of the church with an installation made up of objects – a huge handmade carpet and an altarpiece – in the girlish pastel colours of pink, blue and purple.

The rug is inspired in equal measure by ‘carpet in British homes’ and ‘the inlaid marble battle scenes on the Siena Cathedral floor’. It takes up the entire floor space and is met at its furthest end with Bonafini’s own version of a 25ft painted altarpiece, covered in prints and bright colours.

Handmade carpet

Detail of Bea Bonafini’s handmade carpet

(Image credit: Zabludowicz Collection)

Her predilection for everyday objects feminised through pastel colours and patterns partly nod to French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, a source of inspiration for Bonafini. This artistic kitsch is becoming her trademark, recent works including the pink plaster, wood dye and salt dough canvas Poked Peach & Georgian Mouths (2016), have seen Bonafini savouring the subversive.

‘I like to think of myself as a promiscuous artist,’ she tells us, ‘I like being surprised by my work and this project has surprised me.’ When she received the commission from the Zabludowiz Collection, as part of its Invites series, Bonafini instantly thought back to the small chapels often found on the side of buildings in Italy where she grew up and were both austere and compelling.

She adds: ‘This chapel intends to create a world of its own, a world that asks something of you the moment you walk in.’ Which in this case, is to make yourself at home.


Bonafini has transformed the museum’s Methodist chapel into a non-religious ‘quasi-domestic’ space

(Image credit: Zabludowicz Collection)

Colorful carpet

She explores her own complex relationship with religious iconography

(Image credit: Zabludowicz Collection)

Cloured stick

Bonafini says she ‘wanted to create links both to sacred and domestic spaces’

(Image credit: Zabludowicz Collection)


‘Dovetail’s Nest’ is on view until 9 July. For more information, visit the Zabludowicz Collection website


Zabludowicz Collection
176 Prince of Wales Road
London NW5 3PT