The solo exhibition of contemporary architecture visionary Zaha Hadid in Hong Kong showcases the late artist’s early work from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
The late architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize, redefined architecture with her iconic Constructivist abstract designs.
“There Should Be No End To Experimentation”, a collaboration between the Serpentine Galleries and Zaha Hadid Design, is on view from 17 March to 6 April 2017 at ArtisTree, Hong Kong. The exhibition, first planned by the architect herself, was shown in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens last December shortly after her death before being brought to Hong Kong.
Owned by Swire Properties at the heart of the city’s Taikoo Place, the 20,000-square-foot art space in Hong Kong features early paintings and drawings by the late architect Zaha Hadid in this solo show. Sponsored by J.P. Morgan Private Bank, it showcases Hadid’s paintings, calligraphic drawings and rarely seen private notebooks with sketches, which illustrate her complex thoughts about architecture’s forms and relationships.
Central to the prolific starchitect’s career is the notion of “experimentation.” The aptly named title of the exhibition is based on Hadid’s remarks, as she has once said:
I know from my experience that without research and experimentation not much can be discovered. With experimentation, you think you’re going to find out one thing, but you actually discover something else. That’s what I think is really exciting. You discover much more than you bargain for. I think there should be no end to experimentation.
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before studying architecture in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London. Five years later, she was awarded the Diploma Prize and by 1979 she had established her own practice – Zaha Hadid Architects – in London. Hadid was the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004 and had recently received the RIBA Gold Medal. She passed away in 2016.
Her first realised building was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in 1993. Other world-acclaimed theoretical works around the globe include The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).
Architecture and design
Hadid joined as a Trustee of the Serpentine Gallery in 1996. Her first structure in London was the inaugural Serpentine Pavilion in 2000, followed by a light installation named Lilas in 2007. She completed the extension for the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in 2013 as one of Zaha Hadid Architects’s first permanent buildings in central London.
Zaha Hadid Architects’ work is the embodiment of spatial complexity and fluidity in form. Working with office partner Patrik Schumacher for three decades, they have produced structures such as The MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku. ZHA’s work of the past 30 years was the subject of international exhibitions at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, London’s Design Museum, the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua, Italy, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the DAC Copenhagen, and the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
As an architect and designer, Zaha Hadid’s work explored spatial concepts at all scales from the city to individual product – sculptural jewellery and limited edition furniture pieces, homeware items and fashion accessories – as well as interior, exhibition and set design commissions. Zaha Hadid Design was established in 2006 and has collaborated with design brands such as international design brands such as Alessi, Artemide, and Lalique. ZHD work was showcased in the Venice Architectural Biennale, Salone del Mobile Milano, Design Miami, and at the IDFFHK.
Sketches and concept development
Throughout Hadid’s practice, references to Russian Constructivist and Suprematist designs are seen. Influenced by Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko, she used calligraphic drawings as a methodology for presenting her architectural ideas, as well as her vision of a utopian world. Fragmented geometric shapes scatter across the pages with dynamism and fluidity. Her buildings seem to hover and float in air due to their characteristic lightness and weightlessness.
Drawing and painting were fundamental to Hadid’s practice. In the exhibition, her 2D works on canvas are juxtaposed against private notebooks which reveal her thoughts on the relationship between abstract structures and the world we live in. These early theoretical works foreshadow what will be realised later in Hadid’s career.
Hong Kong is the city which launched Hadid’s international career. Her first internationally acclaimed project in the early 1980s, The Peak (1982-3), awarded first prize in a design competition for a leisure club in the Hong Kong hills. References to Chinese paintings and Islamic calligraphy, fused with the futuristic dynamism of Russian Constructivism, are presented in this work, which is unusual for that of an architect. Although never built, this winning design is a milestone in Hadid’s life.
The M+ Museum in Hong Kong has also lent drawings and an architectural model of Hadid’s design of The Peak. The sculptural model features layered compositions in various materials, such as transparent acrylic boards and pencil on paper. The M+ contemporary art museum, scheduled for opening in 2019, is set to be built in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District with a Herzog & de Meuron permanent structure. It focuses on 20th and 21st century art, design and architecture and moving image from the Asia Pacific region and beyond. The Peak, a rare and important architectural work by Zaha Hadid is part of Hong Kong’s M+ Museum collection.
Similar to the London show, visitors in the Hong Kong exhibition can experience Hadid’s creation through virtual reality technology. Zaha Hadid Architects and the Serpentine, in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, have specially developed four experimental virtual reality experiences to enable visitors to connect directly with individual paintings in this exhibition. By entering the 2-dimensional paintings of Hadid through virtual reality, the visitors are able to engage in Hadid’s utopian world in 3D together with sound effects. To enhance visitor experience, a mobile tour of the exhibition in ArtisTree is also available through visitors’ mobile phones.
These interactive and immersive experiences exemplify the current trend of merging art with science and technology. In this exhibition, they are supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through its Bloomberg Connects programme, a global initiative that helps cultural institutions innovate and engage audiences by leveraging digital technology. Visitors can also view exclusive footage from the Zaha Hadid archive in a screening room in the show.
Commenting on the exhibition, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Artistic Director and Yana Peel, CEO expressed:
We are honoured to bring this expanded exhibition of our friend and long-term collaborator Zaha Hadid to Hong Kong – the very place that launched her reputation as a global architectural pioneer. Her declaration that ‘there should be no end to experimentation’ has not only become a mantra for the Serpentine Galleries but is the basis on which this showcase of Zaha’s visionary talent and legacy was conceived in her own lifetime.
- Architecture and Philosophy: Iranian-born American artist Siah Armajani at Rossi & Rossi, Hong Kong – March 2017 – Siah Armajani is recognised as a pioneering figure in the conceptualisation of the role of art in the public realm
- Preview: 10 highlights from Art Central Hong Kong 2017 – March 2017 – Art Radar previews some highlights from Hong Kong’s Art Central Fair, open between 21 and 25 March 2017
- “Before | During | After”: Hong Kong artist, architect and collector William Lim – in conversation – November 2016 – influential Hong Kong collector speaks about his artistic practice, his multifaceted persona, his collecting philosophy and the artist’s “spirit”
- Talking about art and love: Kenyan artist Syowia Kyambi at Serpentine Gallery – interview – November 2016 – Kenyan artist Syowia Kyambi talks about her installation and performance practice
- Lebanese-French architect Hala Wardé to design BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art – October 2016 – BeMA: Beirut Museum of Art is set to open in 2020 and is designed by Lebanese-French architect Hala Wardé
Subscribe to Art Radar for more news on Iraqi-British leading figures from the art world