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Broad brush
by Muhammad Yusuf March 19, 2015
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Design Days Dubai (DDD), the Middle East and South Asia’s only collectible design fair, has returned to Emaar’s The Venue in Downtown Dubai for its fourth year (Mar. 16 – 20). Held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and in partnership with Dubai Culture, this edition is the largest of its kind to date.

Presenting purchasable and highly desirable works of modern and contemporary design, DDD, its organisers pointed out, is the first and only design platform for enthusiasts and collectors in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It hosts 44 exhibitors from 20 countries, representing 150 designers.

More than 780 items are being exhibited throughout the five days and fair participants can also partake in thirteen hands-on workshops, sponsored by Dubai Design District (d3), and nine talks with regional and international design experts.

Fair Director Cyril Zammit said: “We are thrilled that Design Days Dubai is the world’s most diverse international design fair. We have welcomed more international galleries and designers to Dubai than in any other year. In 2015, the fair also sees its biggest participation from the Middle East and UAE — nearly half of the line-up is home grown design talent”.

DDD adds to a strong returning international representation in welcoming a number of galleries for their regional premiere. David Gill Galleries (UK), Gallery FUMI (UK), Chamber (USA), Galerie Silbereis (France) and Gallery ALL (China/USA) are some of the debut galleries, which are joining returning giants such as Carpenters Workshop Gallery (Paris/London).

Exhibitors from Cape Town (Southern Guild), Sao Paulo (Coletivo Amor de Madre), Vienna (Wiener Silber Manufactur), Melbourne (Broached Commissions) are also among the 22 returning galleries, which in 2015 are joined by leading international design organisations, the World Design Capital — Taipei 2016 (Taiwan) and Beijing Design Week (China).

The Crafts Council (UK) is offering British talent a chance to shine on the stage with an exhibition from established and upcoming designers. Their collective mission is to explore the possibilities of how UK designers might work in the Middle East region in the future.

Tashkeel (Dubai) has unveiled works developed by participants of its nine-month design programme, which engages designers, makers and artisans living and working in the UAE to develop products that work towards defining a design aesthetic and production process that is Made in the Emirates.

Design collectors and enthusiasts seeking to further experience and explore regional design will also be able to view innovative works from first-time participants 1971 (Sharjah) and 19th Century Antiques (Dubai) as well as the launch of Aljoud Lootah’s first collection (Dubai) and Arty by AMN (Ajman).

From the Greater Middle East are Ardeco Gallery (Beirut/Lebanon), Art Factum Gallery (Beirut/Lebanon), Carwan Gallery (Lebanon), House of Today (Lebanon), Cities (UAE/Saudi Arabia) and Naqsh Design House (Amman/Jordan), which join VCUQatar (Doha), the Qatar campus of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia, that shows works by its students.

The annual Design Days Dubai Public Programme, a series of free hands-on workshops, discussions and short films, sponsored by d3, is presented by designers from the UAE, Italy, Morocco and Taiwan, among other countries. The Public Programme also hosts a daily public keynote talk and an intimate conversation series with regional designers at the fair’s new Audi lounge.

Van Cleef & Arpels and Tashkeel, in partnership with DDD, also unveiled the winning design of the third annual Middle East Emergent Artist Prize at the fair. Sponsored by the French high-jewellery maison, the prize’s 2015 theme ‘Functional and Conceptual Design’, encouraged emerging designers to develop conceptual or functional pieces of design such as furniture, objects or projects, with the designers’ choice of material.

Designed to support and nurture emerging talent across the Middle East, the winner of the prize received a production budget of Dhs30,000 to produce the work. Ivan Parati, lecturer in the Ajman University of Science and Technology, was declared the winner.

DDD also saw the unveiling of the winning design for Urban Commissions. The urban design initiative is aimed to help to transform Dubai and nurture the city’s design talent, and was launched by Dubai Culture and d3. The 2014/15 DDD initiative invited the UAE’s resident creatives to propose and design a public urban seating installation for the city of Dubai. Urban Commissions’ inaugural winner, Anna Szonyi, unveiled her work, the Boomerang Bench.

DDD is supported by French high-jewellery maison Van Cleef & Arpels, Emaar and Audi.


For this auction season for Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art that happened March 18, Christie’s Dubai brought art works from leading collections from many countries. Masters such as Paul Guiragossian, Farid Aouad, Aref Al Rayess and Ayman Baalbaki from the Mokbel Collection, which is a recognised art compilation, were represented at the sale.

The Mokbel Art Collection is a project dedicated to endorsing Lebanese art, showcasing the richness of Lebanese cultural heritage throughout the Middle East and beyond. Founded by Johnny & Nadine Mokbel in 1998, it started by acquiring hand-picked masterpieces. It is now a multinational project dedicated to supporting established Lebanese talent, as well as promoting new Lebanese artists.

The Mokbels decided to part with fourteen of their nearly one hundred works of Lebanese art. Over half of the works were by Guiragossian, Lebanon’s most acclaimed Modern Master. His works can be found in many private collections as well as in the collection of the Vatican Museum, Vatican City.

Baalbaki was born in 1975 in Odeisse, South Lebanon. As a child growing up during the Lebanese civil war and Israeli occupation, he was forced to leave his village and relocate to Beirut. His background and childhood have greatly influenced his work as an artist over the past ten years. As a result, many of his paintings feature aspects of his life as a refugee in Beirut or reconstruction efforts in the city in the post-war era.

Aouad was born in South Lebanon in 1924 and lived in Paris for most of his life. His work is best known for their expressions of solitude. Works sourced from a Swedish corporate collection, from the estate of Ramses Younan (well known for his introduction of structural abstract art in the region), Modern Master Hamed Ewais’ works offered by his family, a gift by Bahman Mohassess (Iranian) to an anonymous owner, works from a private German collection and Contemporary Master Monir Farmanfarmaian’s art piece, formed part of the lots put up for auction.

Emirati Ebtisam Abdulaziz’s ‘Remapping Bait Al Shamsi (N, S, E, W)’ painted in 2014, was offered to benefit The New England Center for Children. The body serves as a training and research centre, offering parents and professionals in the autism community outreach workshops, education events and opportunities for advanced training. Abdulaziz encouraged viewers to see the beauty that goes beyond architecture.

Michael Jeha, Christie’s Middle East Managing Director, said that it was the auction house’s eighteenth sale season and its ninth year of operations in Dubai. “We have sold $300 million worth of art and 3,000 works by Middle East artists”, he disclosed. “Christie’s has seventy five percent of the auction market’s share in the Middle East”.

Hala Khayat, Christie’s Director/Head of Sale, while pointing out Syrian maestro Louay Kayyali’s ‘Azef Kaman (The Violinist)’, said that “Syrian artists took only their art — which included canvases, art material like brushes and paint, and musical instruments — when they left for Lebanon or Turkey to escape the war. This shows that art has the ability to sustain life”. She should know; she is not only Syrian herself, but always full of life.

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