"The space of The State Hermitage historical halls is a real trial for an artist" - Ksenia Malich

By Anna Savitskaya - Friday, July 3, 2015
"The space of The State Hermitage historical halls is a real trial for an artist" - Ksenia Malich

The first Russian retrospective exhibition of Zara Hadid’s work opened its doors on June 26 and runs on until September 27 of this year at The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The show is taking place in the historic Nicolaevsky Hall of the Winter Palace and illustrates the wide variety of mediums that Zaha Hadid works with to realize her projects: paintings, drawings, models, and design objects. The links between Hadid’s world renowned neo-futuristic designs and Russian art are due in large part to the influence that the Russian Avant-garde movement had on the early steps of Hadid’s architectural development.

"The space of The State Hermitage historical halls is a real trial for an artist" - Ksenia Malich

“The space of The State Hermitage historical halls is a real trial for an artist.” - Ksenia Malich, curator of Zaha Hadid’s exhibition.

The first Russian retrospective exhibition of Zara Hadid’s work opened its doors on June 26 and runs on until September 27 of this year at The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The show is taking place in the historic Nicolaevsky Hall of the Winter Palace and illustrates the wide variety of mediums that Zaha Hadid works with to realize her projects: paintings, drawings, models, and design objects. The links between Hadid’s world renowned neo-futuristic designs and Russian art are due in large part to the influence that the Russian Avant-garde movement had on the early steps of Hadid’s architectural development. This is why the exploration of her architectural oeuvre starts with "The Black Square" by Kazimir Malevich. Ksenia Malich, curator of “Zaha Hadid at the State Hermitage Museum” shares with Artdependence Magazine some insights into the exhibition. 

Artdependence Magazine: In 2004 Zaha Hadid was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. 11 years later the Hermitage prepares an exhibition on Hadid’s achievements throughout her four decades long career. Was the idea for this exhibition conceived over a number of years, or was it a more recent development? 

Ksenia Malich: In fact, the idea to organize the exhibition already came up in 2012, when the anniversary of the Pritzker Prize presentation was expected. But the project we implemented is really huge, so we finished it only in 2015. 

Zaha Hadid, portrait by Alberto Heras

AD: How does an exhibition dedicated to one of the most experimental and innovative architects fit within the State Hermitage Museum?

KM: The space of The State Hermitage’s historical halls is a real trial for an artist. But we were sure that Zaha Hadid, as one of the most influential and serious contemporary architects, will be absolutely convincing within the precincts, as a natural continuation of the museum scenery. It is incredibly suited to the timeline of the collection. And furthermore, we have a chance to demonstrate her architectural principles in operation.    

Galaxy Soho Beijing, photo by Hufton+Crow, 2013

AD: How long did it take you to prepare this exhibition? Was the process difficult?

KM: It was an extremely exciting project. Zaha Hadid’s team is very professional, and it was a real pleasure to work together on this project. We considered several different layouts for the show, and that was one of the most fascinating moments, trying to predict how the Nikolaevsky hall will "behave" and "communicate" with the new structure. 

AD: What was the principle of assemblage for the exhibition? And how many of Zaha Hadid’s projects are explored within the framework of the show?

KM: This is the first exhibition in Russia to present Zaha Hadid's projects. Our main aim was to show the variety of her heritage, all the diversity of her approaches. Part of the show is dedicated to Hadid's early projects, partly influenced by Russian avant-garde art. All her brand new projects, including both design and research, are represented as well. More than 300 exhibits are involved in the display.     

DDP Seoul, photo by Virgile Simon Bertrand, 2014

AD: Zaha Hadid refers to the Russian Avant-garde movement in many of her projects. Does the exhibition trace these influences in her work?

KM: We have placed at the start of the exhibition one of the most important 20th century pieces of art - "The Black Square" by Kazimir Malevich, from the Hermitage’s own collection. From the early Zaha Hadid sketches and drawings, one can see how she drew inspiration from the suprematistic sense of space, the avant-garde construction method. These instruments helped to develop her pioneering vision for a new route in contemporary architecture.      

AD: We can observe how, for the past several years, The State Hermitage Museum has seriously engaged in the exploration of the contemporary art scene. One of the Museum’s big steps in this direction was last year’s 10th edition of Manifesta. How do you explain the expanding scope of the Museum, and what more can we expect from The Hermitage in the near future?

KM: The Hermitage has always represented contemporary art. It's not just a new tendency within the museum’s policy. Maybe contemporary projects nowadays attract more public attention, as it raises the most vital questions of today’s world. Contemporary art helps us to look outside of ourselves, to correct something, to find new possibilities, new horizons. 

AD: Thank you, Ksenia, and good luck! 

Malevich's Tektonik © Zaha Hadid, 1976-77

The Peak Blue Slabs © Zaha Hadid, 1982-83

Tektonic Whirlwind © Zaha Hadid, 1992

Heydar Aliyev Centre Baku, photo by Hufton+Crow, 2013

Heydar Aliyev Centre Baku, photo by Helene Binet, 2013

Anna is a graduate of Moscow’s Photo Academy, with a previous background in intellectual property rights. In 2012 she founded the company Perspectiva Art, dealing in art consultancy, curatorship, and the coordination of exhibitions. During the bilateral year between Russia and The Netherlands in 2013, Perspectiva Art organized a tour for a Dutch artist across Russia, as well as putting together several exhibitions in the Netherlands, curated by Anna. Since October 2014, Anna has taken an active role in the development and management of ArtDependence Magazine. Anna interviews curators and artists, in addition to reviewing books and events, and collaborating with museums and art fairs.

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