Artists build an incredible Oscar Wilde temple honouring the playwright that can host gay weddings, vow renewals and transgender naming ceremonies
By Terri-Ann Williams for The Daily Mail - 4 October 2018
A shrine celebrating activist and author Oscar Wilde has gone on display in London, with visitors being able to take part in marriage ceremonies and vow renewals at the chapel. The new installation has hopes of raising funds for homeless LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people in the city. In a Victorian south London church, the Oscar Wilde Temple is the first London show from artist Peter McGough and long-term artistic and former romantic partner, David McDermott.
The installation is more than an art show, as visitors will be able to use the temple for LGBT rites of any kind, including marriages, vow renewals and transgender naming ceremonies. The installation had originally been mounted in New York last year and the immersive experience is now set to take over over the premises of the non-profit arts organisation Studio Voltaire, which is located in a former chapel, where it will remain for the next six months. It was in 1885 that Wilde had been imprisoned on charges of sodomy and gross indecency following accusations made by the father of his lover, Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas. Now both McGough and McDermott want to present his suffering and help raise awareness with the new instalation, the New York Times reported. McGough said: 'Wilde stood up for himself in the courts, he went to jail and then he was destroyed.
'What he went through was very Christlike.' The exhibition includes an altar that surrounds a wooden rendering of the 19th-century Irish playwright and poet. Gay rights and the AIDS crisis have been constant themes in the pair's work and feature throughout the exhibition. While the 'Oscar Wilde Temple' is a step forward for progress, it is also a politically charged move.
The painting 'A Friend of Dorothy, 1943' features slurs that the artists have been called. Another, showing a luminous spiral radiating from the center of the canvas, bears the title 'Advent Infinite Divine Spirit,' offering an alternate meaning for the acronym AIDS. Both works date from the '80s. There are also contemporary pieces which are displayed on either side of the altarpiece, including 12 oil paintings of what McDermott and McGough identify as modern-day martyrs.