Hammer Projects: Petrit Halilaj, installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, September 15, 2018-January 20, 2019. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Hammer Projects: Petrit Halilaj

For his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Petrit Halilaj presents a group of giant moth costumes suspended at various heights, illuminated by custom flickering lights.

Mining his personal history and cultural identity, Petrit Halilaj constructs whimsical worlds inhabited by fantastical creatures and reimagined relics. Using humble materials such as sticks, mud and fabric he has re-imagined animals from forgotten places and times. His affinity for animals extends beyond representation as art works—on several occasions the artist has adopted an animal persona as a method of both disguise and metamorphosis. He’s been a bird, a dog, and most recently a moth. Working collaboratively with his mother, Halilaj crafted giant moth costumes using traditional Kosovar fabrics or materials like qilim, dyshek and jan carpets (they were shown at the 2017 Venice Biennale). For the artist they symbolize discovery, transformation, and concealment, and playing Peter Pan to Tinkerbell, he elevates the often-reviled insect to a more esteemed position in the animal kingdom. For his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Halilaj will present a group of the moths suspended at various heights in the Hammer’s vault gallery, illuminated by custom flickering lights.

Hammer Projects: Petrit Halilaj is organized by Ali Subotnick, adjunct curator with MacKenzie Stevens, curatorial associate.


Petrit Halilaj (b. 1986, Kostërrc, Skenderaj-Kosovo) lives and works in Berlin and Pristina, Kosovo. He studied fine arts at the Brera Academy in Milan. He has had solo exhibitions at institutions such as the New Museum, New York (2017); Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2015); Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2015); Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Germany (2015); ChertLüdde, Berlin (2014, 2011, 2009); Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2014); WIELS Contemporary Art Center, Brussels (2013); Kunsthalle Sankt Gallen, Saint Gall, Switzerland (2012); Kunstraum Innsbruck, Germany (2011); and Center for Contemporary Art Pristina, Kosovo. Halilaj’s work has also been included in group shows at venues such as the Venice Biennale (2017); National Gallery of Kosovo, Pristina (2015); Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy (2015); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014); Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan (2012); New Museum, New York (2011); and the Berlin Biennale (2010). In 2013 Halilaj represented Kosovo in the nation’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 2017 he was awarded the Mario Merz Prize and the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and he received a special mention from the jury of the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

The Hammer Projects series is presented in memory of Tom Slaughter and with support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

The Hammer Projects series is made possible by a gift from Hope Warschaw and John Law. Generous support is also provided by Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy, with additional support from Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.