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NYC isn’t the only city boasting art events galore in March: Later this month another stunning set of art fairs will take center stage in Dubai. The Middle East has become a hotbed of change and cultural development, and the art world serves as a platform representing the creative innovations sweeping the region. One such archetype is personified in what can only be described as truly intelligent design: Debuting it’s first edition during Dubai’s Art Week is Design Days Dubai, a dynamic new satellite fair showcasing the work of contemporary local and international designers.
With over 400 works on view ranging from vintage classics to modern creations, the pieces presented by 22 galleries from 14 countries will convene in the city that has become the meeting point of artistic exchange between East and West. “Dubai is a great catalyst city and Design Days Dubai reflects the diversity of the city, said Design Days director Cyril Zammit. “The entire world meets in Dubai.” Recently, MutualArt spoke with the director about this fresh-faced fair joining the Dubai Art scene. We also chatted up galleries and designers presenting work at the fair. (Left: "Indian Pot 4, Mexican Cocobolo by Bud Latven/Sarah Myerscough Fine Art).
The success of Art Dubai since its emergence five years ago inspired the establishment of Design Days Dubai, striving to bring this underrepresented genre more recognition. This proved to be one of the biggest hurdles facing the new fair, but Zammit says the strength of Dubai is its capacity for progressive thought, with a commitment to advancing new trends in the region. Beirut’s Carwan Gallery is one prime example. “Contemporary design is a new growing market here in the Middle East. We would say that even five years ago, there were very few initiatives,” the gallery owners told us. While historically design has always played a role in Middle-Eastern architecture and craftsmanship, it’s most often associated with large-scale commissions. “The most difficult thing is bringing the genre to another level, lending a more conceptual and critical eye to the projects in order to create a sustainable design culture...and avoid[ing] the cliché and the first degree of lecture in the project.” (Above Right: Enignum Canopy Bed by Joseph Walsh, 2010).
The contemporary approach to design is a novel concept, but as Carwan representatives affirm, it’s a key component in creating a lasting impression. “This is a great opportunity to learn from history on how we can bring design using tradition and make it contemporary...We believe the next ten years will be very prolific in terms of development in the area.”
The launch of Design Days Dubai is pretty ambitious in this sense, with an artistic mission that transcends boundaries. “The main goal is to engage and initiate: engage a dialogue between buyers and galleries, students and industry, designers and galleries, and set up Dubai as a hub for contemporary design in the region,” Zammit says. “We hope to initiate a long-run movement that will support students to have access to international institutions and also facilitate their outreach for production and representation.” (Below, clockwise from left: Chair SIE29 by Pawel Grunert/Galleria Paola E Rosella Colombari, photo courtesy of Marek Fijalkowski; Phable by Dominic Harris/Priveekollektie; work by Hun Chung Lee/Gallery Seomi).
In terms of trends in the world of emerging Emirati and local artists, Zammit expressed “a strong wish to stay close to regional roots when exploring the works of regional designers. For these designers, “translating their identity through the products they are producing is crucial.” Lebanese designer Nada Debs agrees. “A lot of Middle Easterner designers, such as myself, have been brought up abroad , and have this urge to come back to the Middle East to explore their own identity and roots, and they have brought back something new to Middle Eastern design: a new outlook and [a new approach to] the craft, searching for a style that reflects their background.” Yet this fresh perspective can sometimes clash with traditional mores, as local designer Khalid Shafar explained: “The cultural barriers in certain societies - especially the Gulf - make it very difficult for some designers and artists to express themselves and their passion to create, due to family and cultural constrains and concerns. Many subjects are considered controversial and can be interpreted negatively in certain circles, limiting the artist’s self-expression and way of thinking.”(Right: work by Jaehyo Lee/ _CROFT)
However, Shafar continues, “With the change in the demographic map of the Middle East and the shift towards a more cosmopolitan crowd, the demand for more collectable and limited edition art and design objects is on the rise.” And Design Days Dubai aims to promote this emerging market to the fullest. “There is a strong need to open a dialogue between designers and the industry,” Zammit says. “In the UAE only, the country has all major heavy industries available, we must now facilitate the production and support of the young designers with them.” (Upper Left: "Intarsia and Lathe 1" by Phillipe Malouin, photography by Ad Achkar. Lower Left: Designer Khalis Shafar with one of his works. Both designers represented by Carwan Gallery).
In addition to the works on display, Design Days Dubai will feature an abundance of programs and events accentuating the multi-faceted field of design and architecture. “The education program will focus on cultural exchange, practical hands-on activities, but also trend forecasting and a deeper knowledge of the design market,” said Zammit. Some highlights include a performance installation by Studio Drift; the launch of WTD, a new architecture and design magazine published in the UAE; and two mentorship sessions taught by Nada Debs for student designers.
Above Left: PP Blue Rope by Tom Price/Victor Hunt DesignArt Dealer; Above Right: Nails Sofa by Leo Capote/Coletivo Amor de Madre.
Design Days Dubai runs from March 18-21 in downtown Dubai. Stay tuned next week for more coverage of Art Dubai!
All Images courtesy of Design Days Dubai; Written by MutualArt Writer L. Meir
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