The Oscar Wilde Temple

McDermott & McGough

Twenty years in the making, The Oscar Wilde Temple is a wholly immersive work of art and secular space honouring one of the earliest forebears of gay liberation whilst commemorating contemporary LGBTQ+ martyrs and those lost to the AIDS crisis.

This is the first–ever institutional exhibition of McDermott & McGough’s work in the UK and provides audiences with an important opportunity to experience the artists’ groundbreaking work first–hand.

For this major new commission, the most ambitious in Studio Voltaire’s history, the entirety of the gallery, a Victorian former chapel, has been dramatically transformed to create an environment that wholly celebrates the Irish poet and author. Period wallpaper, stained glass windows, hangings and 19th century chandeliers and furniture adorn the space, evoking the provocative sensuousness of the Aesthetic Movement.

The Oscar Wilde Temple is free and open to the public for six months – to all faiths and non–believers alike. Individuals and families are welcomed into The Oscar Wilde Temple for private reflection as well as to celebrate LGBTQ+ marriages, naming ceremonies, vow renewals, memorials and markings of other important occasions.

The Oscar Wilde Temple provides an extraordinary experience to visitors as well as being a functional safe space.

A wide–reaching Participation Programme in partnership with national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity The Albert Kennedy Trust, offers a six month programme of workshops, events, mentoring and professional development for LGBTQ+ young people, in partnership with leading artists, writers and designers.

McDermott & McGough use the lens of Wilde’s legacy to make visible the traumatic history of queer identity while directly addressing the continuing inequalities faced by LGBTQ+ communities. The artists’ 30–year practice has engaged with issues surrounding queer identity since the early 1980s. Their work frequently addresses the homoerotic aspects of Victorian culture, while simultaneously acknowledging the oppressive politics of the period.

David McDermott (1952) and Peter McGough (1958) have worked collaboratively since 1980, achieving notoriety in the bohemian downtown quarters of New York with their performative ‘time machine’ experiments. This all encompassing gesamtkunstwerk saw their dress, home, and art studios (down to the materials and techniques they deployed) remain strictly faithful to late 19th and early 20th centuries. By refusing the contemporary present in favour of fabricating their own queer version of the past, McDermott & McGough asserted a revolutionary queer agency well ahead of their time. Their practice is a singular and prescient voice among the numerous politicised and activist artists that emerged into the mainstream during the AIDS crisis.

Curated by Alison M. Gingeras in partnership with Studio Voltaire.

The Oscar Wilde Temple was made possible by:

Lead Supporters: The Kors Le Pere Foundation, Dorothy Berwin, Mike Meagher and The Mila Charitable Organisation.

Supporters: Hernan Bas, R & S Cohen Foundation, Marie & Joe Donnelly, Wendy Fisher, James Lindon, Victoria Miro, Mathieu Paris, Charlie Parsons, Stephen & Yana Peel, Paul Price, Thaddaeus Ropac and Glenn Scott Wright.

Supporters Circle: William & Laura Burlington, David Gill, David Kowitz, Maureen Paley, Gordon Watson and those who wish to remain anonymous.

With special thanks to Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant.

Green Carnation Circle: Ashish, Tim Blanks, Matty Bovan, Matt Connors, Alexandre Da Cunha, Nicole Eisenman, Paul Flynn, Anya Gallaccio, Juliet Jacques, Gert Jonkers, Isaac Julien, Glenn Ligon, Gianluca Longo, Helen Marten, Charlie Porter, Wolfgang Tillmans, Russell Tovey, Nicola Tyson and Sarah Waters.

The Oscar Wilde Temple Public Programme

The Oscar Wilde Temple was a space of sanctuary and celebration – McDermott & McGough wanted the space to used constantly, for LGBTQ+ ceremonies, reading groups, community meetings and other special events.

In response to the artists’ intention, we issued a simple invitation to London–wide LGBTQ+ communities – come and activate the temple. Between October 2018 and April 2019, we collaborated with over 20 organisations, charities and individuals to host more than 50 events.

A wide–reaching engagement programme in partnership with The Albert Kennedy Trust ran alongside this programme, as well as regular hosted visits, reading groups and educational tours.

Visit The Oscar Wilde Temple Public Programme to read more.