Myth, modernity and monumentalism

Adrián Villar Rojas: Today We Reboot the Planet

The new Serpentine Sackler Gallery opened with an extraordinary site-specific installation by the young Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas, in which the space was re-imagined as a fossilised world of ruins and ancient monuments.

28 Sep 2013 to 10 Nov 2013
Serpentine Sackler Gallery / Exhibition

From a sculpture of a mummified Kurt Cobain to a crumbling elephant, 33 year-old Villar Rojas combined pop culture, science fiction and quantum mechanics with the natural world to create a contemporary Pompeii. Fabricated almost entirely out of mud, clay and brick, this grey and dusty vision of the future offered a fantastical comment on the fragility of the world’s ecology.

One of the most exciting artists to have emerged in recent years, Villar Rojas has become renowned for his large-scale sculptural works, predominantly made in clay and brick. This exhibition was one of two opening shows for the newly launched Serpentine Galleries. The other, Marisa Merz, ran concurrently at the Serpentine Gallery.

Working with a team of collaborating builders, sculptors and engineers, Villar Rojas tested the limits of clay to create an apparently fossilised world of ruins and ancient monuments that played with the concept of time, history, modernity and the future. Overarching connections between his projects create a larger narrative, with themes and forms reappearing and reconfiguring themselves over time. As with My Dead Family, which saw him create a 28-metre-long sculpture of a whale stranded in a forest for the Biennial at the End of The World, each installation can seem as if it is the last chapter of an unknown mythical saga.

For his first exhibition in the UK, Villar Rojas re-cast this potent mix of myth and imagination responding to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, a former munitions store built in 1805. Taking inspiration from the brick-vaulted Gunpowder Rooms that sit at the centre of the building, the artist reimagined the architecture and original purpose of the new Gallery at the very moment it was revealed to the world for the first time. Drawing on the artist's self-declared fascination with topics as diverse as science fiction, comic books, popular music and quantum mechanics, his often fantastical sculptures appear as relics from an invented antiquity or an imagined future.

A key element to his installation at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery was the implicit presence of another parallel site of production, a traditional brickworks in Rosario, Argentina, which - alongside its daily production of bricks - functions as a laboratory of artistic experimentation for Villar Rojas. The farm produces handmade bricks, using the ancient method of mixing the raw materials in the ground using animal power before hand firing them in glowing pyramidal towers. The immediacy and rawness of this production process, which originally drew Villar Rojas to the brickworks, resulted in objects and constructions that appeared as 'ghosts' in the exhibition. This return to an old and traditional practice - similar to that of returning to clay as material and sculpture as a form - is the artist's path for inventing a symbolic world that speaks to our imagination as much as it does to the politics of a global economy.




Limited Edition

Adrián Villar Rojas Limited Edition

Related Events / Exhibitions: 
Serpentine Gallery
28 Sep 2013 to 10 Nov 2013

The only female artist affiliated to the radical 1960s art movement Arte Povera, Marisa Merz holds a special place in the history of Modern art.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Sat 9 Nov 2013 - 3:00pm

Paolo Viscardi, curator at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in charge of the fossil and bone collections, presents a talk about his practice in response to the work of Adrián Villar Rojas.

Supported by


Marion Goodman Gallery, kurimanzutto, mexico city

With additional support from



Embassy of Argentina London


Northcot Brick

The Henry Moore Foundation



Adrián Villar Rojas, Today We Reboot The Planet

Media Partner

Independent (red)

Adrian Villar Rojas Exhibition - Guardian Preview Film

Thursday, 3rd October 2013

Adrian Villar Rojas Exhibition - Guardian Preview Film, courtesy of the Guardian

Adrián Villar Rojas, Today We Reboot The Planet 2013

Adrián Villar Rojas

Today We Reboot the Planet

Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (28 September - 10 November 2013)

Adrián Villar Rojas: Today We Reboot the Planet 28 Sep 2013 to 10 Nov 2013 at Serpentine Sackler Gallery