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Design Days Dubai 2017: What not to miss

As the region’s pioneering fair dedicated to rare, collectible design returns, here’s your guide to the finest on show

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Designing the Region’s Future

As the first designer to have a solo presentation at the fair, the rise of Dubai-based Aljoud Lootah’s repute is intricately meshed with the growing prominence of Design Days Dubai. She discusses the fair’s larger contribution to the region exclusively with Gulf News tabloid!.

This year marks my third consecutive year participating in Design Days Dubai as a solo designer. A journey that I embarked on with my first presentation — a group show at the 2013 edition of the fair as part of the Tashkeel & Dubai Culture initiative — has led to great growth for me, and as I see through the eyes of an exhibitor at Design Days Dubai, for the region as well.

From a handful of regional galleries showcasing in the inaugural edition in 2012, to 2017 when they represent almost half of the galleries on show, the regional design market has grown exponentially from one that was predominantly focused on buying imported products to one that is actively creating and selling to the region and the globe.

Design awareness in the region too, has grown exponentially. Not only does the UAE now have a wide array of galleries devoted to design — postmodern, industrial, kinetic for example — the fair is paved the way for the larger MENA region to embrace the potential of its creative industries. In addition to Dubai Design Week, design weeks in Jordan and KSA are prime examples of the fair’s influence.

Since its inception, the fair has become a launching platform for UAE-based and regional designers. The fair creates a curiosity among a young and mature audience and in presenting opportunities of meeting journalists, collectors and museum/foundation trustees all within one place during Art Week, Design Days Dubai has given us regional creatives a foot into an international design scene.

Ode to Dubai

“The world can’t help but admire Dubai’s resilient, forward thinking and innovative spirit,” says Amrish Patel the man behind Sonuslexica — the installation specially commissioned for Design Days Dubai pays homage to the Emirate and is one of the fair’s prominent highlights. “Dubai is a beacon of possibilities thanks to the vision of its leader His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, and the determination of its people — Emirati and expat.”

As the founder of the India studio Apical Reform, Patel and his Design Director, Darshan Soni champion digital production and parametric design principles. “Humanity is key in all that we create, because no matter how advanced the design and production tech may be, it is the emotional connection that the onlooker seeks.” The response their works elicit may be at the individual level, but for Sonuslexica, they invited the community to participate.

Dubai dwellers were asked to upload videos of themselves speaking the words harmony, peace and growth — identified by the studio as the founding pillars of Dubai’s success — in their native languages.

The installation is a composition of three sections. The base is made from wooden totems that purely express the soundwaves generated by the words spoken in the videos. “We used the sound wave technology that allows us to isolate the sound from the video and find it’s cleanest wave format,” says Patel. His studio then spun the wave on the horizontal axis, creating a 3D form that was then realised as the totems through digital production. “These totems represent Dubai’s humanity and form the root of our installation.” From it, a stylised Dubai skyline rises as a metaphor for the Emirate’s meteoric ascent on the world stage and underlines it’s dynamic, diverse community as the source of nourishment. The sand dune below serves as a reminder of where it all began.

Britain Takes Shape

Suzanne Trocmé, the international ambassador of design curates Britain Takes Shape. She talks exclusively to Gulf News tabloid! about how intermingling of creative thought is a good thing.

Like the UAE, Britain has been, and remains, a destination for talented creative people in architecture and design who often select to study and then remain to work. Some, like the American Philip Michael Wolfson, have been spotted by design greats and have the opportunity to work alongside some of the great names in the world. It is this kind of creative collaboration that has legacy and all of the pieces in Britain Takes Shape offer an insight into a depth of thought that remains at the vanguard of design today.

The work of Fredrikson Stallard is now acquired by museums throughout the world for permanent contemporary collections. Patrik Fredrikson of the design duo cut his design teeth in the office of Philip Michael Wolfson. The story continues.

With materiality and process at the heart of Britain Takes Shape, the aim is to indicate the way design pioneers work and to bear witness to desirable objects that have a place in any home, with imagination.

In this year of cultural collaboration between the UAE and the UK I am delighted as a curator, having curated two exhibitions of Middle Eastern contemporary design in both London and Milan for Wallpaper* magazine, to bring not just the objects from the UK but the designers themselves who are all delighted to meet their counterparts of the MENASA region and to take an active stance in what we all in the design community know to be a relevant and pertinent cross-pollination of ideas.

Best on Show

With more than 50 international and regional galleries on show and price points ranging between prices range from US$500 to upwards of US$75,000, the 2017 edition of Design Days Dubai is the largest and most diverse till date. Dubai based kinetic arts gallery, MAD will present Damien Bénéteau’s heart stopping works that dwell on his fascination with volume, lighting and their perceived relation with space. New York’sTodd Merrill Gallery makes its Dubai debut with All-Stars presentation featuring works by Karl Springer, Niamh Barry and Jake Phipps.

Fair favourites and regional benchmarks of fine design Nakkash Gallery, Iwan Maktabi and Naqsh Collective return with the next chapter of regional design excellence. Galleries Territoire(s) and Leclaireur fly the French flag high, presenting exceptional works by Geraldine Gonzales and Pierre Bonnefille respectively.

In addition to Lootah, another fair prodigy, Dubai based design educator, ceramic artist and one of the winners of last year’s Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East Emergent Designer Award, Michael Rice explores the nuanced subtlety of optimised simplicity and materiality through sculpture. This year’s edition of the Award explores the theme of Growth; the shortlisted entries are unveiled at Design Days Dubai.

THE DETAILS

The sixth edition of the fair takes place March 14-17, at Dubai Design District

Public Days

March 14th through 16th: 3-9:00pm

Friday March 17th: 1-7pm

Ladies Only viewing

Tuesdays, March 14, 12-3pm

Ticket Options

Day ticket (valid one day): 50 AED on-site

Please visit www.designdaysdubai.ae for special online ticket rates

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