Saturday 2 April 2016

How Design, Photography Refreshed Dubai Art Week

 By Tajudeen Sowole
As the five-edition-old Design Days Dubai has expanded the creative landscape of Middle East's leading business and leisure haven, a debutant, Dubai Photo Exhibition is, potentially, the new face of the city as art hub. The photo exhibition is designed to be a yearly global gathering in collaboration with World Photography Organisation (WPO).
Installation titled Forma by Khalid Shafar on display at Design Days Dubai Week

While Design Days Dubai flagged off the city's yearly Art Week for 2016 at Downtown Dubai - a short distance from Burj Khalifa - the photo show made its debut in the same week at Dubai Design District (d3). The d3 is part of an ongoing expansion project in the city's Free Trade Zone where investors are given autonomy to own business without native content partnership.

Few buildings away from the venue of the photography's opening, architect, Lindsay Miller has just briefed visiting journalists about the aim of the promoters of d3 to create a space for creative professionals in the Dubai Free Trade Zone. Phase-One of d3, Miller stated cost $4bn just as the second phase was ongoing. And Phase-3, she disclosed, "commences in 2021."

 Conceived in 2013 by the UAE’s Prime Minister and Head of Dubai, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al Maktoum - as a hub for creative professionals - d3 has every reason to be ambitious. The Middle East's design industry alone was estimated to worth around $2.3 billion in 2014.

With "1.8km of waterfront," Miller assured that d3 is a crucial and integral part of the Dubai Free Trade Zone. Already, about 85 per cent of the spaces have been occupied by professionals in fashion, art and design fields. Regular events across creative genres, Miller added, are spices that would boost d3 as partners in a business zone where multinationals are expected to thrive.

 Projection of d3 promoters include: featuring a one million square foot Creative Community, in 2018, which will act as the site’s cultural epicentre, inspiring emerging designers and artists, and attracting tourists to the area. A year after, d3 will also boast a bustling Waterfront, a 1.8km esplanade running alongside the Dubai Creek, with international and design-led hotels, boutique retail concept stores and an outdoor events space, as well as a host of hospitality and leisure facilities. 

  Less than an hour after Miller's briefing, Secretary-General of Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Muktoum International Photography Award (HIPA), Ali Bin Thalith; CEO of World Photography Organisation (WPO), Scott Gray; and Head Curator, Global Perspective on Photography, Zelda Cheatie  opened the Dubai Photography Exhibition with a press conference. Though it made its debut public show in 2016, the exhibition, according to Thalith was "created six years ago to nurture photography excellence." The contents, he said, covers periods of twentieth and Twenty first century photography.

 For Grey, "a non-commercial" ventilation for photography, he said, had always been the belief of WPO. And in Dubai Photo Exhibition, he was "personally proud that it's a reality."

  Cheatie who led a 18-curators team of the exhibition stressed the spread of the gathering: "From the four points of the earth, we are glad to make this a huge team." She also declared that "it's on a global scale."

 Mounted in four spaces of what has been described as purpose-built temporary museums, the contents indeed, confirm it's global scale. From 23 countries, 700 works that cut across two centuries were presented in museum style, showing events, peoples and places. Such contents include the rural setting of Africa that shows family, school children and play spots captured by Guy, to retrospection known as The Birmingham Project in U.S that depicts over 50 years-old tragedy in a church, among others. Indeed, the Dubai Photo Exhibition appears to have taken off on a documentary note. 

 About seven minutes drive out of d3, Design Days Dubai continues. Art, in its functional, aesthetics and luxury classic resides at the 2016 edition, so it seems as visitors take a tour of the booths of galleries from across the world on third day of the event. But in quite a few examples, the creative value of design appears to be more of priority above functionality.

 On Immediate right of the exhibition's entrance, an installation that is interactive in concept -allowing you to move around the welded mesh - probes perception of space and confinement in a journey. Few steps away, comes Nakkash Gallery's display of installation titled Forma, by artist, Khalid Shafar. Its presentation, as one of the most captivating spots at the event, is a two-composite installations from artist, Shafar and designers Alessandro Masturzo and Ilaria Lubelli.

  Shafar's Forma, a sculpture of deep cultural content is made of 348 wool Agaals woven together with wires and opaque Plexiglas that reflect lights in see through form. The agaal, a ring form of accessory well-known in Arab men traditional fashion stresses Shafar's signature material. The artist explains that the installation "is a result of a study and exploration of how identical 2D shapes can create 3D forms by connecting and interconnecting all elements together."

 The gallery has been participating at Design Days Dubai since inception in 2011. It explained how each of the 12 objects is "interconnected using the Agaals, creating a magical, fairytale illumination experience. “We’re thrilled to be a part of Design Days Dubai 2016 for the fifth consecutive year. By featuring a mix of both international designers and local talent, we believe the synergy of the two will take Design Days Dubai 2016 to the next level," said Wajih Nakkash, Founder and Lead Designer. "With our stand this year we were looking for a creative mix of art, interior design and culture and with Shafar's installation coupled with some of our featured designers we did exactly that.”

  On his collaboration, Shafar noted that Design Days Dubai 2016 "is another milestone for me towards strengthening my ties with prestigious galleries such as Nakkash."

  Born in 1980 in Dubai, and as a business graduate of the American University in Dubai, Khalid worked in marketing and communication for almost seven years. 

 With an expansive space of classic jewelries, Paris, France-based Van Cleef & Arpel's stand confirms its new status as winner of Middle East Emergent Designer Prize. Spiced by the glitters of choice jewelries such as presentations in lighting and tall female models, the space seems to offer all it takes to stress the value of high taste in wearable accessories.

 Across, on the right side is another prize-winner, Ninjel Kumar, who picked the city's Urban Commission Award. Kumar's work, shown at a modest space proved that the prize, which had 82 entries from other applicants, deserved the winning prize. 

 Other exhibitors included Monogram and M.A.D Gallery (both Dubai), Samovar and Loulwa Al-Radwan (both Kuwait), Vick Vanlian and Georges Amatoury Studio (both Lebanon), Kalo (UAE) and Aisha Al-Sowaidi (Qatar). 1971 Design Space, Aljoud Lootah, Cities, Fatima bint Mohamed bin Zayed Initiative, Fadi Sarriedine, Shamsa Alabbar and Tashkeel, all based in the Emirates, along with Coalesce (Pakistan), Naqsh Collective (Jordan) and Squad Design (Lebanon).

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