Openings Museums United Kingdom

Serpentine Gallery’s 'sinuous and sensual' £14.5m expansion opens

The former gunpowder depot has been renovated by Zaha Hadid to house exhibitions

Serpentine Sackler Gallery Photo: © 2013 Luke Hayes

Zaha Hadid’s highly anticipated £14.5m extension of the Serpentine Gallery opens to the public on Saturday. Housed in a former gunpowder depot, the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery is a seven-minute walk from the main gallery. It is a site that the Serpentine directors have “had their eye” on for many years, said Peter Palumbo, the chairman of the Serpentine Gallery, at a press conference on Wednesday. But they “almost missed the boat entirely” when they failed to spot an advert announcing that it was coming up for rent in the Evening Standard. Better late than never, Hadid was contracted to draft a plan without seeing the building, winning the competitive tender that included a proposal by the artist Damien Hirst.

“Sinuous and sensual”, according to Palumbo, the white, tent-like formation in Hadid’s signature undulating forms will house the gallery’s cafe and Magazine Restaurant (headed by the renowned chef Oliver “Ollysan” Lange). The historic depot, meanwhile, has been renovated by the studio to house the gallery’s exhibitions, while preserving the barrel-vaulted spaces inside. The Sackler Serpentine Gallery is being touted as Zaha Hadid Architects’ “first permanent structure in central London” although she is already responsible for the London Aquatics Centre in Stratford and the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton.

The young Argentinian artist Adrian Villar Rojas has been chosen for the inaugural show. “Today We Reboot the Planet” (28 September-10 November), his first UK exhibition, transforms the space into a post-apocalyptic world of clay. At the same time, the Serpentine’s main exhibition space is devoted to another first in the UK, a solo show by the winner of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale, the artist Marisa Merz (28 September-10 November), continuing the gallery’s promotion of overlooked, older, women artists.

The Serpentine also announced that Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing mayor of New York, will serve as the gallery’s chairman. The billionaire Bloomberg, who owns the financial data and media company named after him, made a major gift to the Serpentine and will have a room named after him in the new annexe. The new gallery is named after the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.

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