Zaha Ha­did: The Artist Within

A ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion at Artistree pro­vides a win­dow on the late Zaha Ha­did’s cre­ative process. Ser­pen­tine Gal­leries’ Yana Peel tells Chloe Street about a show that cel­e­brates the ar­chi­tect as an artist

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life | Art -

Pic­ture an ar­chi­tect’s prepara­tory sketches for an im­por­tant build­ing and you prob­a­bly wouldn’t see swirls and dots, or a colour­ful ab­stract paint­ing splat­tered with geo­met­ric shards. But that’s what you’ll find among the note­books and imag­in­ings of Zaha Ha­did, the fa­mously non-con­form­ist Bri­tish ar­chi­tect who died sud­denly in March last year.

It’s not sur­pris­ing, though, given the na­ture of her strik­ing legacy—such land­marks as the Guangzhou Opera House, con­ceived to re­sem­ble wa­ter-smoothed peb­bles in a stream, the stringray-like Lon­don Aquatic Cen­tre she de­signed for the 2012 Olympics, and the bold, an­gu­lar Broad Art Mu­seum at Michi­gan State Univer­sity. The Iraqi-born ar­chi­tect’s de­signs are beau­ti­ful, con­fi­dent and of­ten out­landish in their ex­trem­ity of form.

A se­lec­tion of the Pritzker Prize winner’s paint­ings and draw­ings, re­cently seen by large throngs of vis­i­tors at the Ser­pen­tine Gal­leries in Lon­don, go on dis­play at Artistree this month, the Taikoo Place gallery’s last show be­fore a change of premises. Zaha Ha­did: There Should Be No End to Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Ser­pen­tine, whose Sack­ler Gallery boasts a tent-like ex­ten­sion de­signed by Ha­did, and Swire Prop­er­ties, which runs Artistree.

Ha­did, who was made a Dame for her

ser­vice to ar­chi­tec­ture in 2012, has an enduring con­nec­tion with Hong Kong. She left an in­deli­ble mark on the sky­line with the Jockey Club’s In­no­va­tion Tower in Hung Hom. And early in her ca­reer, her elab­o­rate de­sign for a leisure club on The Peak won an in­ter­na­tional de­sign com­pe­ti­tion in 1983, though it was never built.

“She was un­com­pro­mis­ing in her vi­sion,” says Ser­pen­tine CEO Yana Peel of her close per­sonal friend (they sat to­gether for years on the Ser­pen­tine board). “Peo­ple know Ha­did as a vi­sion­ary ar­chi­tect, but this ex­hi­bi­tion cel­e­brates the idea of Ha­did as an artist.”

Like Ha­did, Peel has a strong and enduring link with Hong Kong; the for­mer Gold­man Sachs banker lived here for seven years, leav­ing only last year to take up the Ser­pen­tine job.

Dur­ing that time she be­came im­mersed in the arts scene. “I was in­volved with Art Basel be­fore it was even Art Basel, so for me it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to see the city con­tinue to po­si­tion it­self as a global art hub,” says Peel, who main­tains ad­vi­sory po­si­tions on the

boards of In­tel­li­gence Squared Asia, which she co-founded, and Para Site.

“I think Hong Kong needs more of these part­ner­ships,” she says, re­fer­ring to the Ser­pen­tine-swire Prop­er­ties ven­ture. “It needs more spa­ces like Artistree, Spring Workshop and Asia Art Ar­chive, more col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts among the city’s in­sti­tu­tions. I be­lieve com­merce and art are im­por­tant part­ners in a thriv­ing city.” The en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist has long been on a mis­sion to pro­mote such sym­bio­sis. In 2003 she co-founded the Out­set Con­tem­po­rary Art Fund, which links pa­trons, key fig­ures and in­sti­tu­tions in the art world to raise funds for emerg­ing artists.

The Ha­did ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes four vir­tual re­al­ity in­stal­la­tions, de­vel­oped by the Ser­pen­tine with the Google Cul­tural In­sti­tute. They con­nect di­rectly with in­di­vid­ual paint­ings, of­fer­ing a dy­namic and im­mer­sive in­sight into Ha­did’s ar­chi­tec­tural vi­sion and cre­ative process. “I know she would have been pleased about the VR as­pect,” says Peel. “Never stop ex­per­i­ment­ing is some­thing she would of­ten say.”

Much like the build­ings she cre­ated, Ha­did’s sketches are vivid, full of life and en­tirely free from the con­straints of con­form­ity. The ex­hi­bi­tion demon­strates that paint­ing was a de­sign tool for Ha­did, the ab­stract means by which she could en­vi­sion the char­ac­ter­is­tic light­ness and weight­less­ness of her build­ings. As Ha­did— the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects—once fa­mously said, “There are 360 de­grees, why stick to just one?”

Zaha Ha­did: There Should Be No End to Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is at Artistree from March 17 un­til April 6, 2017. art.swire­prop­er­ties.com

“PEO­PLE KNOW HA­DID AS A VI­SION­ARY AR­CHI­TECT, BUT THIS EX­HI­BI­TION CEL­E­BRATES THE IDEA OF HA­DID AS AN ARTIST”

Im­mer­sive can­vas One of Zaha Ha­did’s vir­tual re­al­ity in­stal­la­tions, de­vel­oped by the Ser­pen­tine Gal­leries with the Google Cul­tural In­sti­tute

Ha­did’s rarely seen sketches are vivid, full of life, and en­tirely free from the con­straints of con­form­ity

Homage to an Icon Clock­wise from far left: Yana Peel, who was a close friend of Zaha Ha­did; three of the four vir­tual re­al­ity in­stal­la­tions de­vel­oped to of­fer a dy­namic in­sight into the work­ings of the late ar­chi­tect’s paint­ings

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