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Zaha Hadid’s dynamic paintings go on show in London

Serpentine Galleries show visionary designs and drawings along with virtual reality experience

Large-scale paintings by Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) as well as drawings and notebooks go on display today (8 December) in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which the late architect converted into an art space. The dramatic, visionary images of cities and buildings, include a student project for a hotel on a bridge over the river Thames, completed in the late 1970s while at London’s Architecture Association (AA). Inspired by Russian Constructivist designs for daring and unrealised building, Hadid used paintings as a design and research tool, said Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Serpentine Galleries artistic director, at the opening yesterday. “She anticipated digital design,” he added. Obrist described how a lecture Hadid gave at the AA inspired him and Yana Peel, the galleries’ director, to want to create an exhibition and publication about her early paintings and competition designs.

The architect’s sudden death in March this year meant the show, organised with the Zaha Hadid Foundation has been brought forward. It includes paintings such as Blue Slabs (1993), an imaginary view of Hong Kong, created while working on a landmark club building on the Peak. One room is filled with paintings, sketches and design drawings from the project. The Peak: Blue Slabs, has been turned into a virtual reality experience by Google Arts & Culture and the Zaha Hadid Foundation, along with other paintings, including a dynamic voyage through Hadid’s vision of London’s Leicester Square.

Peel paid tribute to Hadid’s long association with the Serpentine, which began in 1996 when she became a trustee. In 2000, Hadid designed what became the first of the gallery’s annual summer pavilions. The temporary structure, initially intended to host a gala dinner, was meant to stand for one night only. The marquee was so innovative, it stayed up all summer. It kick-started a programme of annual commissions by leading architects, including Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer, Rem Koolhaas and Peter Zumthor, many of whom had never built a structure in the UK.

Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings (until 12 February) is organised with Zaha Hadid Architects and the Zaha Hadid Foundation, in partnership with Swarovski. Versions of the exhibition are due to tour “a select number of institutions and museums across the world, tailored to each venue”, a spokeswoman for the gallery. Meanwhile, a separate exhibition is planned in 2017 for Rome’s MaXXI, the Modern art and architecture museum designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Woody Yao, who joined Zaha Hadid Architects in 1994 and organised the Zaha Hadid Retrospective at MAK, in Vienna, as well as Hadid exhibitions at the Design Museum in London and last year at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, helped in the selection of works for the Serpentine Galleries’ exhibition, which has been organised by its curator Amira Gad.

Meanwhile, a short walk away down Exhibition Road, the Science Museum is due to unveil a Zaha Hadid-designed  gallery today. Mathematics: the Winton Gallery, features a dramatic canopy evoking the imaginary airflow of biplane suspended in the space.