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Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings' at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017
Serpentine Sackler Gallery
In partnership with Swarovski

“I have always been interested in the concept of fragmentation and with ideas of abstraction and explosion, de-constructing ideas of repetitiveness and mass production. My work first engaged with the early Russian avant-garde; in particular with the work of Kasimir Malevich – he was an early influence for me as a representative of the modern avant-garde intersection between art and design. Malevich discovered abstraction as an experimental principle that can propel creative work to previously unheard levels of invention; this abstract work allowed much greater levels of creativity.” Zaha Hadid, 2007

This winter, the Serpentine presents an exhibition of paintings and drawings by renowned architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). Zaha Hadid is regarded as a pioneering and visionary architect whose contribution to the world of architecture was ground-breaking and innovative. The Serpentine presentation, first conceived with Hadid herself, will reveal her as an artist with drawing at the very heart of her work and will include the architect’s calligraphic drawings and rarely seen private notebooks with sketches that reveal her complex thoughts about architectural forms and relationships. The show will focus on Hadid’s early works before her first building was erected in 1993 (the Vitra Fire Station in Germany), presenting paintings and drawings from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

The exhibition will take place at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, renovated and extended by Zaha Hadid Architects in 2013. A select number of institutions and museums across the world will join in this timely homage to Zaha Hadid.

Drawing and painting were fundamental to Hadid’s practice. Influenced by Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko, she used calligraphic drawings as the main method for visualising her architectural ideas. For Hadid, painting was a design tool, and abstraction an investigative structure for imagining architecture and its relationship to the world we live in. These works on paper and canvas unravel an architecture that Hadid was determined to realise in built structures, one that is seen in the characteristic lightness and weightlessness of her buildings. Conceived as Hadid’s manifesto of a utopian world, the show reveals her all-encompassing vision for arranging space and interpreting realities.

Technology and innovation have always been central to the work of Zaha Hadid Architects, and many of Hadid’s paintings prefigure the potential of digital processes and the software required to render virtual reality. Connecting directly with the individual paintings in this exhibition, four experimental virtual reality experiences have been specially developed in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture. These in-gallery experiences will offer a dynamic and immersive insight into Hadid’s architectural vision.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director and Yana Peel, CEO said: “We are honoured to be presenting this exhibition of our friend and long-term collaborator Zaha Hadid here at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by her practice in 2013. Her contribution to architecture as a pioneer and visionary cannot be overstated, and her declaration that ‘there should be no end to experimentation’ has become a mantra for the Serpentine Galleries as it looks to the future.”

Brian Clarke, artist said: “Zaha was both architect and artist. As she said: ‘I get the same goose-bumps from Bacon as I get from Niemeyer.’"

Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski executive board: said: “We are pleased to be supporting the Serpentine Galleries for this exhibition. Swarovski was honoured to collaborate with Zaha for over a decade, creating an incredible body of work which ranged from lighting installations to sculpture, jewelry and home decor. Her vision always pushed us outside our comfort zone, and the results were breathtaking. I feel extremely privileged to have known her both as a friend and as a creative collaborator.”

Amit Sood, Director of Google Arts & Culture, said: "The opportunity to develop four experimental, virtual reality experiences that offer visitors new insights into Zaha Hadid's creative vision was a real privilege for us. We hope people enjoy connecting with Hadid's paintings in a new, immersive way."

The Serpentine has had a long relationship with Hadid, which begun in 1996 when she joined as a Trustee of the Serpentine Gallery. Her first structure in London was the inaugural Serpentine Pavilion in 2000. It was followed by a light installation, Lilas, in 2007. In 2013, she completed the extension for the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, one of Zaha Hadid Architects’ first permanent buildings in central London. She also participated in the Serpentine’s Interview Marathon in 2006 and 89Plus Marathon in 2013.

The exhibition will coincide with the opening of Zaha Hadid Architects’ much anticipated Mathematics: The Winton Gallery at the Science Museum, which will explore how mathematicians, their tools and ideas have helped to shape the modern world.

Serpentine Winter Season
Zaha Hadid’s statement that “there should be no end to experimentation” is key to understanding her radical approach to architecture, as well as providing a useful perspective on the multi-faceted practice of Lucy Raven, showing concurrently at the Serpentine Gallery. Both artists are interested in drawing attention to the spaces that surround us, be it through Raven’s moving image installations, which reveal the structures and mechanisms of cinematic imagery, or Hadid’s visionary art and architecture. Hadid’s integration of innovative technologies into her practice, resulting in unexpected and dynamic forms, is paralleled in Raven’s exploration of technology, revealing the labour and processes behind the manufacture and distribution of images throughout the world.

Above image: Metropolis, 1988, Acrylic on canvas, 548x239 cm,©Zaha Hadid Foundation

To download images, please click here

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London W2 2AR
Admission is free. Open 10am - 6pm, Tuesday - Sunday, plus bank holidays
Open over Christmas except for 24 - 26 December 2016, 31 December 2016 - 1 January 2017

Notes to Editors

About Zaha Hadid
Born in Baghdad, Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before studying architecture in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London. By 1979 she had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – garnering a reputation across the world for her ground-breaking theoretical works, including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994). Hadid was a Pritzker Laureate and had recently received the RIBA Gold Medal. Her first realised building was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in 1993.

Zaha Hadid Exhibition Partner: Swarovski
Swarovski & Zaha Hadid
Swarovski has been at the forefront of design for the past 120 years, collaborating with the best creative minds to push the boundaries of innovation. For more than a decade Swarovski partnered with Zaha Hadid on numerous projects: in 2007, they worked together on Fade, a sculpture presented in the gardens of the Serpentine Galleries; in 2008 on the Light Sculpture chandelier at Salone del Mobile as part of Swarovski Crystal Palace; and in 2013 on Prima, an outdoor installation and table-top collection to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hadid’s Vitra Fire Station. Earlier this year, Hadid created Crista, a sculptural centrepiece for the debut Atelier Swarovski Home collection that made use of Swarovski’s innovative Wave Cut technology, allowing curved forms to be cut in crystal for the first time.

Sweeping and architectural, it is a true reflection of Zaha’s pioneering spirit and visionary design aesthetic.

Google Arts & Culture
Google Arts & Culture is a new, immersive way to experience art, history, culture and world wonders from over a thousand organizations worldwide. Google Arts & Culture has been created by the Google Cultural Institute and it is available for free for everyone on the web, on iOS and Android.