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Zaha’s wishes honoured as Merz Barn thrown £25k lifeline

Merzbarn damage
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A Swiss gallery has donated £25,000 to save Kurt Schwitters’ deteriorating Merz Barn in Cumbria – honouring a suggestion made by Zaha Hadid before she died

Zurich’s Galerie Gmurzynska offered the sum after Hadid recommended rescuing the unfinished Merzbau installation – located in a former shed on the site – which was left ‘devastated’ by Storm Desmond last December.

Hadid, who died of a heart attack in March, designed the 2010 exhibition Zaha Hadid and Suprematism for the Swiss gallery which specialises in Russian avant-garde art.

The late architect also designed a centrepiece installation – inspired by Schwitters’ original Merzbau in Hanover – for an exhibition at the gallery marking the 100th anniversary of Dadaism opening on 12 June.

The donation comes shortly after site owner Littoral Arts Trust called on Arts Council England and Tate director Nicholas Serota to urgently rescue the unfinished 1940s architectural installation which is at the centre of the campus.

Trust co-founder Celia Larner commented: ‘The Swiss donation has enabled us to access around £20,000 of community storm relief funding and we have £5,000 from University of Cumbria. So this has actually achieved our immediate target to get the Merz Barn back to where it was before the storms, and the site tidied up.

‘As far as I know Hadid never came here – I think we would have noticed – but she was obviously a good friend of the Swiss gallery.’

The trust’s long-term Future of the Merz Barn restoration project will create a new arts centre and museum focusing on the pioneering Dada artist by 2019.

The first stage – expected to finish in 2017 and cost around £65,000 – will restore the damaged Merzbau shed which was originally built as part of a large gunpowder mill.

Schwitters relocated to the Lake District in 1942 after escaping the Nazis who had labelled him a ‘degenerate artist’.

On the Cylinders Estate in Elterwater he set about creating an immersive architectural installation – which he called a Merzbau.

Based on his earlier Merzbau artworks in Nazi-occupied Hannover and Norway, the ambitious project was left unfinished when the artist died in 1948.

The most complete wall was relocated to Newcastle’s Hatton Gallery in the 1960s and the remaining Merz Barn site has been used as an arts centre and museum since 2005.

Cumbria was worst hit by Storm Desmond which brought record levels of rainfall to the UK in early December 2015.

Around 5,200 homes were flooded and many communities and businesses are still recovering from the destruction.

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