Art Nerd New York | Los Angeles

The Oscar Wilde Temple Calls Us to Prayer

To many in New York, Oscar Wilde is thought of with fondness; a gateway out of adolescence in our small towns, a romantic, a gay icon- even the subject of a fancy new bar in the area developers are calling “Nomad” (Actually the bar looks fabulous and packed with fascinating historical remnants). But despite carrying around a copy of Dorian Gray as a subversive calling card in your (my) early teens, its important to remember that Wilde was not just a supremely gifted writer of prose, but also an important trailblazer of LGBT rights. In the idyllic Oscar Wilde Temple, a creation of duo McDermott & McGough at The Church of the Village, a solemn yet ornate sanctum seeming to have landed in its lower floor from the 19th Century calls us to prayer, just as Wilde would have wanted it.

Actualized by curator Alison Gingeras (because everyone always forgets to mention the curator), the tranquil temple is entered by descending a flight of stairs, and stepping through a lace-clad door. Inside, Wilde parishioners may approach a wooden idol sculpture in his likeness (with C.33 marked into the pedestal- Wilde’s prison cell number) at the front of the sanctuary, or sit in one of the rows to reflect.  Modern saints flank one side of the room- martyrs of homophobia through history like Brandon Teena and Alan Turing, with McDermott & McGough’s interpretation of the Stations of the Cross lining the rest of the room- paintings made from clippings of Wilde’s trial in Victorian Era tabloids.

Originally hoping to stage the exhibition at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City, curator Gingeras found the center to not have room, and so looked with hope to the church across the street. Mixing religion with modern art, especially LGBT art, seems an oxymoron in our current climate, but The Church of the Village is the perfect host for this extraordinary installation. Here, everyone is welcome regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or sexual identification- they even have a “Resistance and Solidarity” section on their website.

During the press breakfast, Peter McGough (his partner David McDermott was too ill to travel) said the project has been in the works for 20 years, finally coming to fruition here in New York. It seems this historical tribute lands at an imperative time, bringing a message of peace and serenity when reading the news has become a daily heartbreak.


A Collaboration Between the Artists, The LGBT Community Center of New York City, and The Church of the Village Memorializes Leaders in the Fight for Equality

September 11 –December 2, 2017
The Church of the Village
201 West 13th Street (at 7th Avenue), New York City

The Temple will be available for private ceremonies, including weddings, memorials, naming services, and other celebrations, on a reservation basis. All proceeds from such private events, as well as ongoing public donations to the Temple, will support The Center’s programs for LGBTQ youth at risk of homelessness.



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