Kurt Schwitters: Merz
Exhibition designed by Zaha Hadid.
Opened from 12 June to 30 September 2016 at Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich, Switzerland.
Kurt Schwitters: Merz, is a major retrospective exhibition that builds and expands on Galerie Gmurzynska’s five decade long exhibition history with the artist, bringing together a unique selection of seventy works across all media.
Key works of each period are presented in a fully transformed gallery space designed by Zaha Hadid. This collaboration results from the idea of an architectural homage by Zaha Hadid to the famous Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters. Having successfully realised a similar project seven years ago, where Hadid transformed Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich into a Suprematist space in reference to Kasimir Malevich, this collaborative project pays tribute to the second important artistic influence on Hadid’s work – Kurt Schwitters.
Schwitters’ Merzbau has been described as a living, inhabited collage, ever-shifting and expanding, and this was the starting point for Hadid’s exhibition design which pushes beyond mere random collage to embrace the unpredictable richness and the complex variegated order found in nature. Seminal paintings and sculptures by Schwitters are married with Zaha Hadid’s works to define an evolving ecology within the gallery; a process of mutual adaptation facilitated by a mediating connective tissue that morphs between the aggregated objects, receives them, embeds them and thereby connects them into a complex, unitary spatial construct.
“This design process is capable of delivering an intricate order, open ended and unpredictable, but at any time highly articulate. It is full of contingencies, but forges a unique, path-dependent identity,” explains Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid’s collaborator of three decades.
“The project was only possible through our extraordinary partnership with the late Zaha Hadid and Zaha Hadid Architects. A partnership that has formed over a decade. One of our most memorable collaborations was Zaha’s selection of Suprematist works by the Russian avant-garde juxtaposed with her architecture at Galerie Gmurzynska. The current Schwitters exhibition with Zaha Hadid’s exhibition design, is the logical complement to the Suprematism exhibition and takes place in the same space. Zaha’s spirit is ingrained in the DNA of Zaha Hadid Architects and this exhibition is a testimony both to her and to the continuous creative powers of Zaha Hadid Architects under the leadership of Patrik Schumacher,” said Mathias Rastorfer, CEO and co-owner of the Gmurzynska Galleries.
As Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich, is within the same building complex that once housed the famous Galerie Dada run by artists Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball, and with the city celebrating 100 years of DADA this year, this retrospective is both overdue and extremely timely. The exhibition will be realized in curatorial collaboration with Adrian Notz, the director of Cabaret Voltaire where the DADA movement originated in 1916 and one of the main locations of this year’s centennial festivities. Adrian Notz will create sections devoted to archival documents covering Schwitters’s important ventures into poetry, theatre, stage design and sound which complement and further contextualize his unique visual praxis.
The retrospective will also shine a light on Kurt Schwitters’s significant influence on a whole range of artistic generations succeeding him – from David Bowie to Damien Hirst – or as the renowned curator Norman Rosenthal put it: “there is no artist working today that has not been influenced by Kurt Schwitters”.
Kurt Schwitters: Merz will be accompanied by an extensive in-depth publication of more than 250 pages with previously unpublished archival material and newly commissioned writings by the former Museum Ludwig director Siegfried Gohr; Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects; Peter Bissegger, who recreated the Merzbau for Szeemann’s Gesamtkunstwerk show; Cabaret Voltaire director Adrian Notz; art historian Jonathan Fineberg, University of California – Irvine; and Norman Rosenthal.
The gallery actively supports the conservation and legacy of Schwitters’s art as a major donor to the Littoral Arts Trust’s effort in restoring the artist’s damaged Merzbarn in Elterwater, England.