The Dutch ethos of integrating design into daily life will now be visible in the UAE. On October 16, the Dutch artists Huub and Adelheid Kortekaas, known for their large, towering sculptures, will stop by Dubai’s 2nd of December Street to launch Anna, a brand of Top Vision Optics. The store specialises in designer spectacle frames.
But before visitors see the products, they will see a giant sculpture of a seated tulip. “The tulip seat is especially made for the UAE as a symbolic historic link between the Dutch and the Arab world,” Huub Kortekaas tells GN Focus. The Kortekaases aim at unity and harmony between mankind, religion and nature with their monumental but introspective art.
“In 1562, the first tulips arrived from Constantinople to the Netherlands. At that time the tulip was a divine flower and there is a certain resemblance between the words Allah and lâle. In the end the tulip became one of the most important icons of the Dutch,” he says.
The link is not only historic. Today Dubai is the largest centre for flower exports in the region, with Holland a key source of flowers. The Dubai Flower Centre, based at the city’s airport, uses a tulip in its logo.
Top Vision’s Anneke Verkaik, whose new brand, Anna (meaning ‘I’ in Arabic) is at the centre of this confluence between art and design. “The shop reflects design as we have it in Holland. Design concept-wise there are not a million frames on display, only highlights,” she says.
“We try to be a little bit different and get the customer out of their comfort zone, offering total eyewear solutions, which work for the prescription and the face,” she adds.
A Dubai resident for 25 years, she felt the need for a redesigned identity after Top Vision Optics completed 21 years. “I did not think the outside of the shop reflected what was inside.” Her store was redesigned by another UAE-based Dutch company, Image Creators FZE.
In the shop where the sculptures and spectacle frames will be on display, Verkaik says, “I want to associate my arty, quirky frames with the artists. These are not designer in the sense of being labels. They are works by specialist designers who make a living out of designing and producing frames. That is why I want to bring the connection with art.”
In their research paper, Kevin Fales, Stephanie Mcdonell and Phaedra Harder, at dutchDesign, an undergraduate field school and research programme by the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, elaborate on the concept of “designer-artists”.
“What makes the Netherlands such a hot design nation is the integration of design into daily life, integrated in everything from mass-produced consumer goods to public services. The Dutch make little distinction in ‘pop’ and ‘high’ culture,” the paper tells us.
“Almost everything in the Netherlands, from tax forms to railroad companies, as well as the post and telephone companies has been carefully designed. Everything, if it is good enough, is legitimate. This was facilitated by pluralistic practices of ‘designer-artists’ who straddled the line between high art and design, bringing elements from both to create a unique cultural experience.”