Design Days Dubai 2017 attracts record visitors

Sunday 09/04/2017
Loop by Rand Abdul Jabbar at the 1971 Design Space in Sharjah. (Design Days Dubai 2017)

Dubai - Design Days Dubai, an international fair showcasing collectible furniture and objects, held its most success­ful event in March 2017, with a number of design studios and solo designers debuting their furniture, lighting and other objects along­side a diverse mix of the world’s design galleries.

Established in 2012, the event has become an important starting point for regional talent, gaining traction due to parallel events at Art Week Dubai in mid-March.

This year, Design Days Dubai had a record 11,302 visitors, a 10% in­crease from previous years. Fifty exhibitors represented 125 design­ers from 39 different countries, with more than 400 purchasable works — from furniture and light­ing to decorative objects — dis­played.

The fair’s new location at d3, the heart of Dubai’s creative indus­tries, made it an ideal venue for the fair. An extensive programme of talks and workshops attracted a large number of visitors.

“Young designers in the region and the UAE are growing in num­ber and confidence. We are seeing a transformation in their approach and use of materials,” said the fair’s head of programming, Rawan Kashkoush. “Whether it’s invent­ing new material composites or ex­perimenting with textures, there is a slow but steady meeting of past and future, making designers from the region our bridges through time.”

Visitors to Design Days Dubai saw laser-cutting technologies paired with the old-world noble material marble in Emirati design­er Aljoud Lootah’s creations. Layer upon layer of thin sheets of wood forming irregular shaped plywood blocks reminiscent of mutant trees characterised Sharjah-based Am­mar Kalo’s collection of furniture.

First-time exhibitors from the UAE included Ayah al-Bitar, AYKA Design; CarpetsCC by Cecilia Set­terdahl; Jafar Dajani, MCML Stu­dio; Michael Rice and Nader Gam­mas. Designers from other areas showcasing work included Apical Reform (India); Aperçu Designs (Jordan); Marie Munier (Leba­non); and Dahr and Ahmad An­gawi (Saudi Arabia).

Gammas, who presented a collection of brass and marble lighting, said he had the op­portunity to show his pieces “to a very large audience, and contribute to the re­gional design scene”.

Apical Reform drew visitors and media lime­light with its sculptural presentation of Sonu­slexica.

“Customisation of bespoke art is our main line of work. We do only one piece, whether it is functional art, bespoke furniture, design or light­ing accessories,” said one of Apical Reform’s 6-mem­ber professional team.

Lootah was a third-time participant in the event. She had previously displayed fur­niture, lighting and objects, but this year marked her first foray into ceramics. Her Tebr collection consists of vases and tableware that depict intricate patterns that adorned the historic architecture of the UAE and explores how they can be interpreted in everyday life.

“Tebr means ‘raw gold’ in Arabic and I have been working on the col­lection for the last six months. The response to Tebr at Design Days has been very good,” she said.

Lootah has had notable success after two of the designs she pre­miered at Design Days Dubai 2015 were acquired by the National Gal­lery of Victoria in Melbourne, Aus­tralia — making her the first Emira­ti designer to have work displayed in a national museum’s permanent collection.

Tashkeel, a Dubai-based arts organisation, is a regular partici­pant at Dubai Design Days. For the fifth consecutive year, Tashkeel showcased the work of emerging designers who had been part of its Tanween programme, which is comprised of an innovative group of emerging designers working in the UAE. Four UAE-based design­ers — Hamza Omari, Hatem Hatem, Lujain Abulfaraj and Lujaine Rezk — exhibited work.

Tashkeel Manager Jill Hoyle said: “The opportunity to show their work alongside that of estab­lished regional and international designers and to get feedback di­rectly from visitors to the fair is an invaluable experience for design­ers at this stage of their career.”

The highlight at MB&F M.A.D. Gallery was French sculptor and installation artist Damien Bene­teau, whose works reflects his fas­cination with light and shade.

“I am influenced by minimal and kinetic art,” he said, explaining that it took him two years to con­ceive and create Spatial Variations, a floor sculpture made of three stainless steel and black anodised aluminium limited editions.

A special feature in this year’s event was Britain Takes Shape, a contemporary British design ex­hibition hosted by Dubai Culture in celebration of the UK-UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration.