Cincinnati's CAC Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Iconic Zaha Hadid-Designed Building
with Exhibition Celebrating the Renowned Architect's Legacy
Cincinnati, OH – February 8, 2023 – This year, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Zaha Hadid-designed building—the first U.S. museum designed by a woman and Hadid’s first completed building in the States. Alongside a slate of talks, tours, and other public programming, the CAC is marking the occasion with an exhibition dedicated to the legacy of the architect, who passed away in 2016.
Hadid’s original design for the CAC’s Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center, an “urban carpet” that dynamically draws visitors from the sidewalks of one of the city’s busiest intersections into the building and up through the galleries, was visionary in establishing a critical connection to the center of urban life in Cincinnati. To commemorate the lasting significance of the building, guest curator Maite Borjabad (curator at the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum) is assembling a multi-layered exhibition on Hadid—one of the most innovative architects of the 21st century—that places her work in conversation with a selection of emerging and mid-career artists that cite her as an influence. The exhibition deconstructs and revives Hadid’s craft through two lenses: a showcase of her paintings and early career practice, and a selection of new site-specific responses to Zaha´s complex legacy and the CAC building itself, commissioned from contemporary artists, performers, and architects.
Spanning a wide range of cultural backgrounds and artistic practices—including sculpture, installation, textiles, sound, video, or performance—the commissioned artists include Rand Abdul Jabbar (b. Baghdad, 1990, currently lives and works in Abu Dhabi), Khyam Allami (b. Damascus, 1981, currently lives and works in Berlin), Emii Alrai (b. Blackpool, 1993, currently lives and works in Leeds), Hera Büyüktasciyan (b. Istanbul, 1984), and Andrea Canepa (b. Lima, 1980, currently lives and works between Valencia and Berlin).
The exhibition begins with a review of Hadid´s early career practice, bringing together a selection of paintings that Borjabad argues, “created a new aesthetic regime that prefigured digital renderings, [at] a time when those technologies did not even exist.” These, along with some early sketchbooks and drawings of the CAC’s conceptualization phase, illustrate Hadid´s early vocabulary, which fostered the methodologies and techniques that would go on to constitute the gravity-defying geometries that became a defining aspect of her best-known works.
This exhibition approaches Hadid’s legacy not as a conclusive overview but rather as a point of departure full of possibilities and reflections. A building, a drawing, or an idea, once emancipated from the author, opens up a range of questions, meanings, and concepts that, while in constant evolution, continue to generate an ecosystem of knowledge. As such, Hadid´s works are not presented as conclusion but as starting points for a selection of artists, performers, and architects to respond to, engaging and evolving towards their own domains and interests. These artists will activate areas throughout the building with site-specific interventions and newly commissioned sound and video works, which will reveal untold readings of the architect’s context and generate new narratives. A schedule of performances will activate the iconic Contemporary Arts Center building and bring it to life in new ways throughout the opening week and beyond.
This exhibition will serve as a catalyst for a chapter of reflection on the CAC, its past 20 years in this expectation-defying building, and the institution’s role as an incubator for creative expression in the Cincinnati community and beyond. There are plans for public talks, architectural tours, meditation tours, and other programming that will incorporate and extrapolate on the themes found in both the exhibition and the building itself. The exhibition will be on view at the CAC from September 22, 2023, through January 28, 2024.