Luke Hayes/Zaha Hadid Foundation

Luke Hayes/Zaha Hadid Foundation

Zaha Hadid died last year as a triumphant succession of her buildings finished or neared completion, most of them deeply imprinted by the digital process: the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, the Jockey Club Innovation Tower in Hong Kong, the Galaxy Soho towers in Beijing. “Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings,” on the other hand, which runs at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens through February 12, takes us back to the white hot period of her career, when drawings and paintings were the medium of her invention—a period when she established the DNA that would nourish the rest of her nearly 40-year-long practice.

Hadid and her associates executed over two thousand paintings in about two decades, and dozens, including some of her most famous, now hang at the Serpentine Sackler: the architect herself converted this brick military magazine into a pristine, jewel-like gallery several years ago, building a contiguous restaurant garden pavilion, the Magazine, tented under lyrically tensile roofs. Provocatively displayed in a structure from her digital period, the show suits this posthumous moment by documenting (with a painting-by-painting roadmap) how Hadid developed one of the most original visions of our time.