In our culturally genre-free 21st century, anything goes, so it makes total sense that mega-popular British contemporary artist Damien Hirst announced on his Instagram account yesterday that he’s currently in the process of “making” a chapel in the south of France. When completed, the chapel will be located at the Chateau La Coste in Provence, France, a vineyard also known for the art and architecture it showcases. (Presumably, Hirst provided the design for the structure, which is now being assembled). In the words of the artist himself, a famous maximalist, “the spire is a huge bronze arm pointing to God.” How modest and understated!
Hirst may be one of the most literal artists to design a chapel, but he’s certainly not the first. In the mid-20th century, avowed atheist Henri Matisse designed and executed a chapel at the behest of Monique Bourgeois, a nursing student and aide who had helped Matisse recover from intestinal cancer and who was in the process of becoming a nun. The resulting structure, La Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, is still standing. More recently, James Turrell, the American light and space-obsessed artist, created a customized fluorescent light installation for the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery memorial chapel in Berlin.
Artists throughout history have been involved with the creation of spiritual and religious spaces in many different ways, regardless of any one particular denomination or belief system. However, if we’re going to talk about the affiliation between artists and chapels specifically, there’s only one all-time great to point to: the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo, featuring dizzying depictions of The Last Judgement and unfurling interpersonal conflicts in the Kingdom of Heaven. No offense to Damien Hirst, but he’s certainly got some big acts to follow.