LGBTQ Rights

A temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde is coming to New York

Art East
A temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde is coming to New York. Seen here:
 Oscar Wilde in Prison, 1895 (MMXVII) (Detail). (Courtesy McDermott & McGough)
A temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde is coming to New York. Seen here: Oscar Wilde in Prison, 1895 (MMXVII) (Detail). (Courtesy McDermott & McGough)

Just as some statues to slavery are being torn down, a statue championing a worthy cause is going up in New York City.

Due to open September 11, a temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde will be unveiled inside The Church of the Village on West 13th Street. Designed by New York and Dublin–based artists David McDermott and Peter McGough, the temple will contain a statue of the esteemed author.

Inside the temple, visitors will be immersed in the Victorian era as McDermott & McGough set the scene of the exact moment Oscar Wilde visited America for a year in 1882. To accomplish this, bespoke wall coverings made from fabric have been installed along with furnishings and architectural and decorative details of the time. In a press release, the artistic duo described the temple as a “time experiment” and dedicate it to honoring those who fought for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender peoples. “For more than twenty years, we have wanted to create The Stations of Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol, echoing the Catholic Church’s iconography and the ritual purpose of the Stations of the Cross,” added McGough. (Reading Gaol was the English prison where Wilde served two years hard labor for “homosexual offences” in 1895.)

At the center of the temple is a central altar and a four-foot, three-inch statue of Oscar Wilde. Below reads “C.33,” Wilde’s assigned prison number. On either of the statue will be eight paintings that narrate Wilde’s arrest and incarceration. Another altar will also be on display, this one being dedicated to people suffering with and who have died from AIDS. McDermott & McGough’s 1987 painting Advent Infinite Divine Spirit will lie adjacent the altar, joined by a votive candle stand and a book for visitors to leave messages.

Other paintings from McDermott & McGough on show include portraits of Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Xulhax Mannan, and Sakia Gunn, all deceased and all who suffered and struggled for recognition of their identity.

The Oscar Wilde Temple, as it is officially known, aligns with McDermott & McGough: I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going, a retrospective of the two artitsts on show at the Dallas Contemporary from October 1.

The Church of the Village can be found at 201 West 13th Street, on 7th Avenue and the exhibition runs through December 2 this year.

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