May 2nd, 2011
By Elisabeth Quin
in the-places. (Last updated: September 11th, 2013)

THE DAY MOBILE ART LANDED
IN THE ARAB WORLD INSTITUTE…
BY ELISABETH QUIN

A peaceful sensuous spaceship. A futurist dream. A great sleeping beast, soft and gleaming. The arrival of Mobile Art by Zaha Hadid in the front square of the Arab World Institute (AWI) in Paris may well look like an hallucination, but its presence is nonetheless both powerful and real.
After stopping over in Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York in 2008, showcasing the work of contemporary artists inspired by Chanel’s aesthetic codes, the travelling exhibition pavilion has found a home.
Designed in 2007, the pavilion was commissioned for Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld, a huge admirer of Zaha Hadid’s work. "Design a pavilion for me!" he said to her. And (mobile!) art was born.
The result was a donut-like mobile structure weighing 80 tons, measuring 45 meters in length with 700 m² of floor space. The aerodynamic look is balanced with sophisticated technology.
Chanel donated Mobile Art to the AWI following a request from the AWI chairman, Dominique Baudis. Not as corporate sponsorship, but as a straightforward donation with no strings attached, motivated purely by Chanel’s passion for art.
To celebrate this triple acquisition – for architecture, town planning and the political sphere – the AWI hosted an inaugural evening on 28th April, with Karl Lagerfeld and the two Pritzker prize-winning "starchitects" Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel.
Mobile Art is the first work in Paris by the Iraqi-born British architect. Finally! Her installation in the front square of the Arab World Institute provokes an exciting moving dialogue between two masterpieces: the AWI building, designed in 1981 by Jean Nouvel and inaugurated in 1987, looms as an imposing perfect rectangle decorated with mashrabiyas in a powerful symbolic tribute to the Arab architectural tradition, and Mobile Art, which embodies intuition and constructivism through its organic forms and inner "skin".
These two architectural concepts are based on two principles, one masculine, the other eminently feminine and sensitive.
The dialogue has taken shape. Contrasting and complementing forms. Magical osmosis. After the inaugural exhibition - "Zaha Hadid: An Architecture"- which drives the spectator into Hadid’s fascinating work on parametricism, the Mobile Art will serve from October 2011 as an exhibition space for contemporary art from the Arab world.
"We live amidst concrete and dreams," observed Adam Zagajewski, one of the poets who attended the inauguration. The dream is right there in the front square of the Arab World Institute.

Photo: Delphine Achard