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Zaha Hadid’s Early Work at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery is now paying homage to renowned architect Zaha Hadid through an exhibition of her early painting,s now on display until 12th February 2017. The Gallery, spectacularly renovated and extended by her practice in 2013, is indeed the perfect place to host this presentation, first conceived with Hadid herself as her manifesto of a utopian world.


Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings focuses on Hadid’s early works, including her calligraphic drawings and rarely seen private notebooks, with sketches that reveal her complex thoughts about architectural forms and relationships, all done before her first building was erected in 1993 (the Vitra Fire Station in Germany). The rarely seen paintings and drawings reveal her as an artist with drawing at the very heart of her work.

For Hadid, painting was a design tool, and abstraction an investigative structure for imagining architecture and its relationship to the world we live in. This exhibition reveals the influence of the modern Russian avant-garde in her work, in particular the work of early Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko. This influence becomes evident in Hadid’s calligraphic drawings as the main method for visualising her architectural ideas.


As Zaha Hadid stated in 2007, ‘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’s intersection between art and design. Malevich discovered abstraction as an experimental principle that can propel creative work to previously unheard of levels of invention; this abstract work allowed much greater levels of creativity’.


The works on paper and canvas show the main characteristics of her architecture: lightness and weightlessness, which reveal her all-encompassing vision for arranging space and interpreting realities, along with technology and innovation. They also show Hadid as a visionary: many of the paintings on display prefigure the potential of digital processes and the software required to render virtual reality. It all makes a strong case for Hadid as both architect and artist.


This exhibition is sponsored by Swarovski, a long-time partner of Zaha Hadid on numerous projects: in 2007 the sculpture Fade was presented in the gardens of the Serpentine Galleries; the year after, she designed the Light Sculpture chandelier at Salone del Mobile as part of Swarovski Crystal Palace; and in 2013, they worked again together on Prima, an outdoor installation and table-top collection to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hadid’s Vitra Vire Station; early that year Hadid created Crista, a sculptural centrepiece for the debut Atelier Swarovski Home collection.


Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings coincides with the opening of the new Winton Gallery at the Science Museum. Also designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Gallery explores the importance of mathematics in every aspect of our lives, and also reflects how much the work of Hadid (who trained first in mathematics before studying architecture) was strongly informed by ideas about geometry. In fact, the design of the Winton Gallery was driven by equations of airflow used in the aviation industry, which are still an important area of mathematical research.

This is a great chance to learn more about our much-admired Dame Zaha Hadid as a pioneering and visionary architect, artist and designer who contributed so greatly to the world of modern architecture.

Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings
8th December 2016 – 12th February 2017

Serpentine Sacker Gallery
West Carriage Drive
Kensington Gardens
W2 2AR


Image Credits: Vision for Madrid, Spain 1992. Copyright Zaha Hadid Architects.