Nevelson Chapel

By Winnie Yen

Back in October I visited the Chapel of the Good Shepard, also known as the Nevelson Chapel.  The chapel is located inside the St. Peter’s Church, which is part of the Citigroup Center complex in Midtown Manhattan.  Commissioned by the church in 1975 and completed in 1977 by renowned sculptor Louise Nevelson, the chapel is the artist’s only remaining comprehensive sculptural environment that is available and open to the public at its original location.

Entry view of the chapel’s Cross of the Good Shepherd

Louise Nevelson was known for her abstract monochromatic "Sculptured Walls", first all black and then all white. She utilized found objects and scraps gathered from debris piles to create her monumental installations. I especially love her all black sculptures: powerful, dark, and mysterious. 

Louise Nevelson’s all black sculpture

A few facts about the St. Peter’s Church building where the chapel is located.  A free-standing building, it opened in 1977 and is a Privately-Owned Public Space (POPS) at the Citigroup Center.  The POPS was started in 1961 to offer developers FAR bonuses on developments if they would build public spaces as part of the projects. The church building was designed by the Citigroup Center architect Hugh Stubbins and Associates. Interior design was by Vignelli Associates, also known for their NYC subway map design in the 1970s.

Exterior of the Citigroup Center, St. Peter’s Church is visible on the lower left hand side below the skyscraper

Interior of St. Peter’s Church

The Nevelson Chapel greets you with a sense of intimacy and calm as you enter the space from the hustle and bustle of Lexington Avenue.  It is a five-sided space, a 28x21 foot sculptural environment defined by the artist’s signature wood wall sculptures, all painted in white and grouped around the gold leaf Cross of the Good Shepherd behind the altar. The chapel is truly an urban oasis, a sanctuary of stillness and light.

Entry to the Chapel

East Wall: Frieze of the Apostles

Southeast Wall: Cross of the Resurrection

West Wall: Sky Vestment

Cross of the Good Shepherd

Throughout the years the art has deteriorated despite upkeeping efforts. The chapel is currently closed and undergoing a full conservation effort, aiming to restore the artwork to a state as close to its original as possible as well as getting new lighting and HVAC.  The space is scheduled to reopen in Spring 2019.