Non-profit gallery Studio Voltaire has announced that it will be bringing artists McDermott & McGough’s The Oscar Wilde Temple to London in early October.

The installation, which featured in New York City’s The Church of the Village in 2017, derives inspiration from the Irish poet and playwright who was tried and imprisoned for refusing to hide his queer identity.

Studio Voltaire’s space in Clapham, South London is converted from a Victorian chapel, featuring a vaulted ceiling and gothic arched windows, which make it a fitting venue for a shrine to Wilde. In a nod to his aesthetic values, the gallery will be decorated in period wallpaper, hangings, and 19th-century chandeliers and furniture. Flanking the centrepiece – a statue of Wilde himself – will be a series of paintings and sculptures from McDermott & McGough, spanning both old and new work.

The Stations of Reading Gaol (VI. Oscar Wilde in Prison), 1917, 2017, by McDermott & McGough

The Stations of Reading Gaol (VI. Oscar Wilde in Prison), 1917, 2017, by McDermott & McGough. Image: courtesy of the artists

Known by their linked surnames, David McDermott and Peter McGough have worked together since 1980, rising to fame via a self-imposed immersion in the Victorian era. In an effort to create a queer version of history, they restricted their art studios (techniques and materials included), home and attire to the styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. McGough has likened that experiment to being ‘frozen in time in a photograph’.

Unlike their earlier work, The Oscar Wilde Temple spans past and present, paying homage to Wilde as well as 12 LGBT persons from the 20th and 21st centuries, whose enormous sacrifices paved the way for gay liberation and equality. Among them are Alan Turing, the father of artificial intelligence who was driven to an early death by persecution; Harvey Milk, the first gay elected official in Californian history and assassination victim; and Marsha P Johnson, the drag queen and leading gay rights activist who likewise met a brutal end. A book of remembrance will invite visitors to record stories of loved ones lost to the AIDS crisis.

Flower 2, by McDermott & McCough, 2018

Flower 2, by McDermott & McCough, 2018. Image: courtesy of the artists

More than a memorial to a painful past, the installation also anticipates a future in which LGBT persons are accorded equal dignity and rights. The artists look forward to having people of all orientations and walks of life ‘come together in celebration of love, unity and communion’. Noting that many religious institutions once condemned same-sex marriage (and some continue to do so), they intend for The Oscar Wilde Temple to be a secular space. ‘Here anyone can joyfully join in union,’ they say.

The installation will be free to visit, while donations and proceeds from private bookings will benefit The Albert Kennedy Trust, a UK-based charity that supports homeless LGBT youth. §