Since 2000, Kensington's Serpentine Gallery has commissioned an architecture firm to dream up a temporary pavilion for its grounds. The Pavilion's opening, and ensuing summer season, is a highlight of London’s busy summer art calendar.
Francis Kéré, who heads Berlin-based practice Kéré Architecture and is originally from Burkina Faso, west Africa, is the 17th architect to take on the commission; as in previous years this is Kéré’s first architectural structure to be erected in London.
In its simplicity, Kéré's pavilion is a departure from the structures of recent years. Bark Ingels' undulating pyramid of blocks that reflected an 'unzipped wall', and the fluorescent tentacles of Selgas Cano's Pavilion couldn't be further in design from Kéré's sparing structure.
The futuristic baobab tree – a wooden disk atop a blue trunk – is intended to reference the central tree in Kéré's home village, Gando, and seeks to connect its visitors to nature, and each other. It is an apt reflection of Kéré’s work and life in Africa, where his socially engaged and ecological design practice as earned him international recognition.
Quite simply the design is mesmerising, especially when the sun beats down. Surprisingly it becomes more and more entrancing the longer you spend in it. But the best thing about the pavilion is that it’s freely accessible to everyone. Visitors are invited to use the pavilion in different ways, with it providing shelter from the summer heat – or, of course, the rain, it's the perfect spot to sit back and relax and enjoy the diverse range of activities on offer.
What’s on at the Serpentine this summer?
Since their construction in the 1970s, The Serpentine Galleries – two contemporary art galleries situated five minutes' walk from each other in Hyde Park – have exhibited some of the most famous names in contemporary art, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marina Abramović and Andy Warhol. Thanks to the injection of cash and Princess Diana's patronage in the early 1990s, the run-down tea rooms were transformed into a state-of-the-art exhibition space. This year, Grayson Perry and Arthur Jafa join the long list of internationally recognised artists to line the galleries' walls.
Running for the duration of the season, the summer exhibitions are: Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, which touches on Perry's favoured themes of masculinity, art, and contemporary culture, and Arthur Jafa: A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions. Both exhibitions are free and are well worth a visit.
The galleries will also be transformed into a venue for the Serpentine's annual series of related talks, screenings, performances and symposiums that take place over the summer. Below is an outline of what to expect. Comprehensive information detailing event timings and ticket prices, can be found here.
Weekly Community Picnics
Inspired by Kéré’s stories for gathering, debate and community, the Serpentine Pavilion will host, for the first time, a series of weekly community picnic talks, in collaboration with Radical Kitchen, a collaborative cooking system that helps people create meals together even when they're apart. Over the summer months, a different London campaign organisation will share their recipes in the Pavilion to encourage creative community exchange over a delicious meal.
Serpentine Park Nights
From rising emerging artists to poetry readings and Greek tragedy, the Serpentine Park Nights is a whirlwind of quirky interdisciplinary encounters occurring every Friday evening from July to September. Artists, architects and musicians among other creative talents have created site-specific works in response to Kéré’s architectural structure that will be explained, discussed and debated during a series of evening interactive events. For more information, or to buy tickets for the Park Nights Series, please click here.
Serpentine Pavilion 2017 at night
Build your own Pavilion
This is one for the kids. Inspired by the magnificent architecture of the Serpentine Pavilion, Build Your Own Pavilion is a digital initative inviting young people aged 8-16 to think about the relationship between architecture and public space. As part of the project, entrants are asked to design the architecture for the cities they would ideally like to live in anywhere in the world. This is a nationwide campaign that also includes a workshop tour, and a series of interactive online resources for children. If you are thinking of ways to drag the kids away from computer games, then this is the perfect activity to encourage them to use their minds and hands creatively. To take part with your school or for further information, please visit buildyourownpavilion.serpentinegalleries.org
The Magazine Restaurant
Forming part of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, The Magazine was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. By day the Serpentine Galleries' restaurant hosts, breakfasts, three-course lunches, prepared by Head Ched Emmanuel Eger, and sumptuous afternoon teas. By night it takes on a whole new lease of life, transforming into the hub for the deliriously eclectic Serpentine Park Nights. Enjoy the festivities, and grab an early evening bite or a classic cocktail while you are at it.
The Serpentine Summer Party
Maybe the hottest ticket in the London Art Calendar, The Summer Party (TSP) has, since its humble beginnings in 2000, become a global epicenter of glamour, power and A-list celebrities. Replacing the traditional fundraising gala, The Summer Party is without question THE place to be seen. Artists, models, actors and high-profile fund managers rub shoulders for one evening in perfect symphony in the name of contemporary art. Tickets are unfortunately by invitation only, but if you do manage to get your hands on one, treasure it like gold dust.
Summer is finally here! Make the most of the outdoor art and design London has to offer.
|What||The Serpentine Summer Season|
|Where||Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
23 Jun 17 – 08 Oct 17, Tuesday - Sunday, including bank holidays
|Website||Click here of more information|