Zaha Hadid as Artist in Hong Kong

Zaha Hadid - Metropolis
Zaha Hadid at the 2014 opening of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
Curator Amira Gad
Woody Yao and Zaha Hadid’s Blue Slabs (Peak)
Zaha Hadid – Confetti ‘The Peak’
Zaha Hadid – Vision for Madrid
Zaha Hadid – Metropolis
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Video Art Asia by COBOSocial.com

An exhibition of early paintings and drawings by Zaha Hadid, the game-changing architect and designer who died a year ago, opens on 17th March at ArtisTree. Hong Kong played a vital role in the career of Zaha Hadid, and the exhibition that has come from London’s Serpentine Gallery has been expanded and configured to reflect that. Before leaving for Hong Kong, the Serpentine’s Exhibition Curator Amira Gad talked to CoBo about the show: There Should Be No End To Experimentation.

Text: Herbert Wright
Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Foundation, Kirsten de Graaf and Herbert Wright

 

Zaha Hadid at the 2014 opening of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

 

In 1982-83, Hadid worked on her entry for the architectural competition for The Peak, Hong Kong. Her architectural visions, inspired by the suprematism of avant-garde Russian artist Malevich, crystallised in an extraordinary stratified design for a leisure club floating above, but also cut into, the rock, and reacting to the dense, dynamic urbanism of Central below it. Her winning proposal was expressed in an extraordinary set of drawings and paintings, which – alongside projects from ‘starchitects’ like Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas – featured in the seminal 1988 exhibition ‘Deconstructivist Architecture’ in MoMA, New York. That show put her on the world stage.

 

Curator Amira Gad

 

Hong Kong’s M+ Museum has lent works to the show, to make a comprehensive study of The Peak project. They are amongst many of Hadid’s drawings and paintings made before 1993, when her first building was realised. The exhibits start with her 1976/77 project for a hotel spanning London’s Thames with Malevich ‘arkitektons’, and include extraordinary paintings charged with dynamic energy, warped perspectives, flow and fragmentation such as The World (89 Degrees) (1983) and Metropolis (1988). Also at ArtisTree, four VR headsets will run virtual 3D animations of Hadid’s visions, made by Google Arts and Culture. The name of the exhibition is a Hadid quote from a London lecture attended by Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of London’s Serpentine Gallery twenty years ago. He curates the show jointly with Woody Yao, director of Zaha Hadid Design, and Amira Gad. This is her interview.

 

Woody Yao and Zaha Hadid’s Blue Slabs (Peak)

 

Is There Should Be No End To Experimentation the same show that was at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London over the winter?

It is the same show, with a bigger focus on things she did in Hong Kong, especially the Peak project. In a way the exhibition is always different when presented in a different context. It’s always been the Serpentine’s motto not to simply re-stage an exhibition from one place to the next but we always think about how the show should be adapted to the context of where it is presented. This is what we’ve done with the presentation of the show in Hong Kong, a city that has been a defining place for Hadid’s career. The Peak was a career-changing work as it was the first design proposal to be accepted, propelling her into being recognised in an international architecture world, even though her (architecture) was not realised until 10 years later.

 

Zaha Hadid – Confetti ‘The Peak’

 

Zaha Hadid was last in Hong Kong when the Jockey Club Innovation Tower in Hung Hom, Kowloon was opened in 2014. Did you consider including that in the show?

I wanted to stick to the framework of the show: everything Hadid has done before her first built structure – the Vitra Fire Station in Germany (1993). The exhibition looks at Hadid’s formative years, what has led to what is recognised today as her signature architectural style. Perhaps it would shed a new light as to how we perceive her Innovation Tower? We will work with the Jockey Club Innovation Tower to host an event and have been in touch with the Polytechnic University to see how we could engage students within the context of the show.

 

If she was not known for her fabulous Pritzker Prize-winning architecture and her product design, do you think Zaha Hadid would be recognised as a great artist in her own right?

Her paintings and drawings have an authority in themselves… I like to believe that Hadid would have been recognised for her work, even if she had not be a ‘built architect’, just as Yona Friedman [Paris-based influential, radical veteran] is recognised as a ground-breaking architect with an important legacy. I like to believe that the way she has imagined our world and a world that we could all live in would not have gone unnoticed.

One of the goals of the show is to celebrate Zaha as an artist, so one of the rules was no maquettes.

 

Zaha Hadid – Vision for Madrid

 

How did you react to the ArtisTree space in Hong Kong?

It’s not a white cube per se, so we had to adapt it. We thought to build walls that reflected her architectural style – they’re not at right angles…. I worked closely with Woody Yao. He has a very good understanding of the exhibition build design that Hadid would have wanted, having worked with her for many years.

 

Do you have any personal favourites amongst the works?

I can point to works that were defining in her practice. In 1976-1977, the first drawings for Horizontal Tektonik, directly referencing Malevich’s arkitektons, is unique in a way – it’s the first instance of Hadid formulating what attracted her for the Russian avant-garde principles into a painting and into the design of a building. She did this painting as a graduation project at the AA Architectural Association in London. She would develop that style and it would evolve to become more refined, more complex and more significantly to become more ‘her’.

In terms of spatial considerations, The Black Square (1913) by Malevich was a defining moment for her. She was impressed by how Malevich’s painting was presented, in the corner of a space, up next to the ceiling. For her, this was an ‘epiphany’ as to how we can challenge space, defy gravity but also choreograph how one navigates a space and looks at works. This particular idea is now visible in her architecture and the nickname attributed to her as ‘queen of the curve’, or proclaiming that a building should not have any ’90 degree angles’.

 

Zaha Hadid – Metropolis

 

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, but despite her Soviet avant-garde influences, that’s not directly referenced in the show…

We didn’t communicate that loudly but it’s very relevant in her work. We don’t need to frame the work in this way as her own paintings do it well on their own, and propose a much larger picture of our world, how to live in it, how to build it and what it all means or how it can bring us together. It’s amazing to see how her work still resonate today, especially for Hadid who was obviously socially and politically conscious. Her paintings offer [a] kind of utopian vision world we can live in.

 

There Should Be No End To Experimentation
17 March to 6 April 2017
ArtisTree, Taikoo Place, 979 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

 


Herbert Wright

Herbert is a London-based writer covering architecture, urbanism, and art. He is contributing editor of UK architecture/design magazine Blueprint and the author of three books. He also writes on other topics including space, environment, music and the future. He has previously worked at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and he curated Lisbon Open House 2012. He graduated in Physics and Astrophysics.

Twitter: @Herbhastosay
Instagram: @herbertwrightuk
website: herbertwright.co.uk

 
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