Design Days Dubai: The Highlights
Design is an integral part of the UAE’s heritage, but until this March, it was missing a dedicated platform. The inaugural Design Days Dubai fills this gap in the UAE’s cultural landscape, providing the UAE and wider region with the first fair dedicated to collectible and limited-edition design. The fair is now in full swing, presenting over 400 rare design masterpieces to visitors. Aside from showcasing established designers and galleries, Design Days Dubai is also presenting a series of interactive projects and work by a new generation of designers from universities in the UAE, Qatar and Switzerland. ArtintheCity has been exploring the different booths and here we bring you a few of the highlights to be found at Design Days Dubai.
First up is Nilufar Gallery (A21) from Milan. Included in their collection is a set of furniture by Robino + A. C. Occleppo compiled from small transparent squares combining resin and pigment, the brownish pigment spreading through the chair and infusing it with a glowing coca cola quality. Passing through a wooden paneled corridor in the same booth, you come to a room dedicated to the fluid design of Joseph Walsh. The Irish designer works with thin layers of laminates which are glued together and sealed in a vacuum, the technical processes creating something incredibly organic in form. The unique bed, which drapes soft fabric over the antler-esque branches overhead, looks particularly inviting!
_Croft (A32) from Korea shows pieces by Jaehyo Lee which are indicative of his immense respect for nature. His biomorphic log chairs reveal and celebrate their materials and wood also forms the basis for some large scale ‘pin cushion’ style furniture. Charred black blocks of wood are impaled with metal squiggles and lines. The metal patterns shimmer, looking simultaneously like a map of the cosmology and a close up of microscopic cells. Across the path in Galerie Downtown François Laffanour (A22), don’t miss a quirky shelf which has been intercepted by the form of a black dog.
Carpenters Workshop (A23) is packed with amazing pieces, from a hypnotic, glittering light installation to Sebastian Brajkovic’s ‘Lathe’ chairs. The word ‘lathe’, which this series takes as its title, comes from the Latin word used to convey the idea of milk being stirred and the furniture stays true to its name. The two works from this series on display play with the traditional form of the chair, extruding it like putty and stretching and swirling the pattern.
Spectacular oxidised metal chandeliers cascade down over the South African gallery, Southern Guild’s booth (A34) from South African lighting brand, Willowlamp. These hanging lights are actually made up of metal cut out units embellished with hundreds of chains, which can be fitted together to create different configurations, from small discrete hanging lamps, to fantastical light installations dripping thousands of rust coloured chains. Make sure to take a closer look about two little figurines standing on a coffee table when you are in this stand. Aside from being marvelously surreal little hybrid creatures, these reveal themselves to be incredibly complex, formed whole by inputting a computer aided design which is transformed through rapid prototyping into a three dimensional object.
Brazilian +Coletivo Amor De Madre Gallery’s space (A26) is a vibrant and busy booth including colourful spade stools, beaded armchairs and unusual illuminated wall pieces. The latter, by Brazilian designer Amaury, expand on the idea of a light box, fusing power points with plug in components, at one kitschy but completely contemporary. One features toy animals and another creates a miniature Japanese cityscape. But the most impressive is a mounted screen showing an idyllic waterfall scene in which the water appears to be moving, flanked by several smaller waterfall scenes and glowing plastic flowers.
Carwan Gallery (A12), Studio Drift (A13) and ‘Ice Angel’ by Dominic Harris (A16) all feature live or interactive design projects. For Design Days Dubai, Beirut-based Carwan Gallery invited design duo mischer’traxler to produce ‘Gradient Mashrabiya’. Shelving runs along the back wall filled with small wooden pieces immaculately laid out like the bones of a design object, transforming from simple wood blocks on one side to intricately shaped units towards the other side, showing off the gradual design process; the wooden pieces were in fact produced in collaboration with local artisans in Beirut, something which Carwan Gallery tries to do as much as possible. These shaped pieces fit together to build a table based on the traditional Middle Eastern lattice pattern of the mashrabiya, and this will gradually be assembled throughout Design Days Dubai.
Studio Drift has produced the poetic ‘Shylight’ installation. A group of electronically controlled lamps which have been programmed to perform a dance shyly emerge and blossom into fabric flowers, before suddenly retracting as if startled. The installation draws from observations of nature and the concept that plants can exhibit characteristics that seem human - happiness when they blossom and open their petals, and fear and timidity when they shrink away.
Meanwhile, Dominic Harris’ interactive light installation, ‘Ice Angel’, recreates the experience of making an angel shape in snow. Why not try making your own ice angel while at Design Days Dubai? Simply stand on the podium and wave your arms in front of the motion activated panels which light up to create a dazzling trace of your movements!
Design Days Dubai has also dedicated three booths to universities offering design courses: the American University of Sharjah (AUS) (A38); the ECAL/University of Art and Design from Switzerland (A39); and the Virginia Commonwealth University from Qatar (A40). AUS presents posters and design objects from its students, including a wicker bench by Noora Loota and Azza Aboualam, while the Virginia Commonwealth University from Doha presents a fun take on Middle Eastern symbols. Check out the football table featuring players wearing abayas and kanduras! The ECAL booth is a particular highlight, showing a selection of products created by students of their MAS-Luxury course, a ten-month programme during students work with luxury goods manufacturers.
Design Days Dubai continues till 21 March and is accompanied by a public programme of talks and workshops.