There’s been so much focus on the design of the new Serpentine Sackler gallery by Zaha Hadid, it’s easy to forget that this is a gallery and there is an artwork inside. Feeling even more neglected is the ‘classic’ Serpentine gallery across the bridge which has a new exhibition that has been largely ignored in the wider media coverage.
In the Serpentine Sackler we have an installation by Adrian Villar Rojas that essentially plants another building inside the new gallery, purposefully leaving visitors confused as to what is part of this new gallery and what’s the artwork.
The first sight that greets us is an elephant crushed underneath a beam, as if the structure above had landed on and killed the poor creature. We thought the destructive nature of this ‘building’ is a fitting parallel to the addition of the gaudy and incongruent restaurant that has been affixed to the side of this new gallery.
Further inside is a room filled with 2,000 objects that are also made from Rojas’ traditional medium of unfired clay, so they will decay as the exhibition goes on. The space is filled with diverse objects such as a giraffe skull and a monkey with its intestines spilling out. By mixing these clay models with rotting foods such as bread and potatoes, it’s both an imagination let loose and a comment on the transitory nature of life. The addition of technology including an iPad Nano covered in fungus suggests the artist doesn’t believe in the dream of immortality through technology.
Across the bridge in the original Serpentine gallery is a subtler exhibition by Marisa Merz, an artist from the Arte Povera school who has created art using found objects.
The exhibition begins strongly with ethereal portraits in gold and blue, and nets made from copper wire that spiral out from the wall on to the floor. Many of the following works are not as strong and her abstract portraits failed to make an impression on us.
But there are a few more highlights including what appears to be air conditioning pipes that have been re-appropriated to create a giant organic form that towers over visitors like an aluminium mushroom. Another highlight is a giant musical instrument made from a triangular piece of board and some copper wire – it’s clearly impractical but makes for an entertaining invention.
Both exhibitions feature works worth seeing but it’s Rojas with his large scale installation and experience who is the top pick for us.
Adrian Villar Rojas: Today We Reboot The Planet is on at Serpentine Sackler Gallery and Marisa Merz at Serpentine Gallery. Both galleries are in Kensington Gardens and continue until 10 November. Admission is free.