Community-centred art pavilion to be unveiled at London's Notting Hill Carnival The artist Alvaro Barrington and architect Sumayya Vally lean into the carnival's place as a robust "site of artistic creation"
By Gareth Harris
The Notting Hill Carnival, which takes place in west London this weekend after a two-year pandemic hiatus, is getting a striking new art and architectural landmark. The London-based artist Alvaro Barrington and South African-born architect Sumayya Vally will unveil a publicly accessible pavilion on Great Western Road (28-29 August), that reflects the history and stories of carnival along with its “mythologies, rituals, repositories of identity and legacies of hybridisation”, say the pair.
Both worked at The Tabernacle venue last year in Notting Hill. In a statemtent Barrington says: “When I saw Sumayya’s pavilion at the Serpentine last year [as part of the summer pavilion commission] I was so moved. There was a way people engaged with it. It felt truly open and I immediately wanted to work with Sumayya so I asked her if she would help me figure out this project for carnival.” As he explains to The Art Newspaper, they started talking about the overlaps in their research and interest in “places of belonging and forms of community and the ways in which these places facilitated cultural production”.
In a statement about the work, Vally adds that “this project also takes the form of a procession”. Community members will place the final pieces of the pyramid-shaped pavilion—seen as a work in progress—to make it complete. She says her practice is centred around amplifying and collaborating with multiple and diverse voices from many different histories. “This is a small gesture, or offering, towards honouring the elders and the origins of the resistance movements associated to carnival.”
Barrington, who was born in Venezuela, has long been fascinated by carnival. “There is a long history of carnivals in modern art history, like Ernst Kirchner and his relationship to colour,” he says speaking to The Art Newspaper. The pavilion also touches upon migration, which “is an interesting conversation because it also includes the exchange of ideas”, the artist adds. A diasporic aspect also underpins the project, drawing on characters and places associated with carnival beyond Notting Hill.
To Barrington, "carnival is one of the most complete sites of artistic creation that exists". However, "there has unfortunately been some economic challenges in order for carnival to continue to be an artistic practice.”
A trust founded by Barrington will fund the pavilion project. “A section of my paintings are about carnival; we take a section of profits from the painting and put it towards a community trust. After engaging with many members of the community, we figure out how that money can be used. This is one of the ways in which it’s being used. Creative culture tends to reproduce a 1% winner takes all model—basically one or two individuals get accredited for what often counts as a community effort,” he says.
In 2019, Barrington designed a float with the United Colours of Mas collective and Socaholic; for this year’s carnival, Barrington will present two performance trucks in collaboration with the organisations Colours Carnival and Mangrove Mas Band. The designs for each truck will feature a group of new paintings celebrating the origins and communities of carnival. Barrington is represented by Sadie Coles HQ and Thaddaeus Ropac.