Digging on Dubai

Design | Mar 2017 | BY Michael Wolfson

Contributing Editor and designer Michael Wolfson shares his impressions from his first trip to Dubai for the region’s Art & Design Week.

I had the great fortune to be invited to the eleventh edition of Art Dubai and Design Days Dubai,  which was also my first visit to the region. Art Dubai opened under the new leadership of the very cosmopolitan and sophisticated Myrna Ayad, and international director Pablo del Val, with this year’s fair being the largest and most international to date.

Rana Begum’s No.43, 2013.

Featuring 94 galleries from 43 countries—with 27 galleries attending for the first time—Art Dubai is working hard to cement its position as the world’s most globally diverse art fair as well as the preeminent platform for the MENA or even the MENASA regional art scene. In addition to the very elegant grandeur of the exhibition halls with an exceptional amount of stunning outdoor spaces to mingle and imbibe, there is one aspect of the fair that makes for a most stimulating walk through which is that the presentations are all solo or two-artist exhibitions.

Showing at Dubai’s Third Line Gallery at Art Dubai, and of exceptional interest, is the work of Rana Begum, this year’s winner of the prestigious Abraaj Group Art Prize. Very contemporary and international, especially as Rana has London as her base. Additionally, there is a gallery district highlighting both international and MENASA regional artists presenting a strong selection of works to see.

If you did not already know, 2017 is the UK/UAE Year of Creative Collaboration! Design Days Dubai, now in its sixth year, features works of over 125 designers/artists, represented by more than 50 international and regional galleries. There was an abundance of talent and project debuts from the Middle Eastern region, making it the largest DDD fair to date. And all of this transpired under the towering Burj Khalifa, which stands nearby DDD’s new home in the Design District.
As a new district, there are a handful of coffee shops and restaurants. But, the most excitingly delicious find is LIGHTHOUSE.  A cross between BASE and Paris’ COLLETTE, this gem of a chic shop/restaurant serves the most delectable cuisine crossed between France and the Levant, cooked up by London- and Paris-trained Izu Ani.

The fair itself, held in a very comfortable white tent is led by the newly-appointed Managing Director and Head of Design, William Knight, brought from London where he was the director of the London Design Festival. As a center piece of this years’ events, award-winning designer and author Suzanne Trocmé selected 10 pioneers of contemporary British design based on their eclectic and alternative approaches. With works not before shown in the MENA region by Frederikson Stallard, Max Lamb, Established and Sons, yours truly and six other wonderful creators!

Of the main exhibitors, of note was the installation “Sonuslexica,” commissioned for the fair  and created using sonic waves by Apical Reform, a collaborative design studio based in India and Dubai. Also, a new design with very creative iterations by Fadie Sarieddine, which I decided to call “ELEMENTS OF THE LEVANT,” as it traces the molecular structure of elements of the region.

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