The 3rd Edition Of Design Days Dubai Pushes The Boundaries Between Art & Design

There is a gritty sandstorm dancing through the streets of Downtown Dubai. Even the mythically shiny Burj Khalifa is clouded in dust. Inside The Venue, the white caravan-like tent that houses the 3rd edition of Design Days Dubai, it’s another world altogether. Designers, buyers, and press wander slowly down aisles, pausing to take in the 33 galleries’ striking exhibition booths.

The Venue with the Burj Khalifa beyond mid-sandstorm

The Venue with the Burj Khalifa beyond mid-sandstorm

Around the corner it is unexpectedly spring. A grove of cherry blossom trees beckon in full bloom—look more closely and it becomes clear that the installation was painstakingly crafted from white polypropylene pipe. Designer Tom Price created PP Trees as a poetic interpretation of an otherwise commonplace material. Fair Director Cyril Zammit remarks that installations like Price’s serve a real purpose at the fair: “We do installations at Design Days to show people that design goes beyond tables and chairs.”

PP Trees by Tom Price brought a cherry blossom orchard to Design Days Dubai

PP Trees by Tom Price brought a cherry blossom orchard to Design Days Dubai

There is no widely accepted definition for design, which can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from art or architecture, but Zammit understands it this way: “Design remains design as long as you give it a function. If you sit on it, it’s design. If you put it on a pedestal, it’s an art piece. It’s up to the buyer to decide how she or he wants to use it.” Thousands of guests will attend Design Days this week to decide for themselves.

Binary Cabinet by Benjamin Rollins Cladwell at Industry Gallery

Binary Cabinet by Benjamin Rollins Cladwell at Industry Gallery

Of note are designer Omar Nakkash’s Victory Chairs in the Nakkash Gallery booth. The clean-lined chairs unexpectedly feature the three-fingered Emirati hand gesture for success popularly used by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum upon learning that Dubai had been selected as host city for Expo 2020. Just a few turns and paces away, Carpenters Workshop Gallery has collaborated with anointed Parisian antiques dealer Steinitz to recreate a collector’s apartment from the 17th-19th centuries, complete with wood-paneled walls, high ceilings, and curious details that demand exploration.

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum flashes the victory sign

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum flashes the victory sign

Omar Nakkash's Victory Chair at the Nakkash Gallery booth

Omar Nakkash’s Victory Chair at the Nakkash Gallery booth

Monkey Business by Studio Job in the Carpenters Gallery apartment

Monkey Business by Studio Job in the Carpenters Gallery apartment

Carpenters Workshop's Parisian collector's flat

Carpenters Workshop’s Parisian collector’s flat

It’s noticeable that local and international, contemporary and antique works are curated together rather than being divided up into segments. Zammit is adamant that “This is Dubai where everyone is mixed together seamlessly, and for that reason the galleries are not organized into emerging and established sections.” For a young gallery, being placed beside an international powerhouse can quickly skyrocket quality work to the top, creating a real buzz.

Newcomers Capsule Arts, an Al Quoz-based arts consultancy, present for the first time this year with a booth featuring new light installations by the London-based Giles Miller Studio. Describing the technique behind the design, Miller explains, “More than 10,000 etched pieces are handmade and crafted with hours spent in our studio putting together each light.”

Giles Miller's Castor & Pollux at Capsule Arts

Giles Miller’s Castor & Pollux at Capsule Arts

Gorgeous and talented  regional designers perched on their FN Designs stools

Gorgeous and talented regional designers perched on their FN Designs stools

Towards the fair’s entrance, ten talented young designers perch on a group of ten wooden stools commissioned by FN Designs in collaboration with Bloomingdales Home and WTD Magazine. The project, titled #10/100/1000 (is a reinterpretation of Francisco Torres’ undertaking of a similar vain) commissioned regional designers to use unfinished wood to create a stool to be made in a limited edition of ten pieces and sold for $1,000 each. The stools vary wildly in theme yet manage to look wonderfully coherent together as a group.

French jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels partnered with local arts centre Tashkeel and Design Days Dubai to present the annual Middle East Emergent Artist Prize. UAE-based artist Vikram Divecha was selected for his work, “Degenerative Disarrangement”which cleverly repurposes discarded cement blocks from a local train station into a contemporary mosaic in the city’s historic Al Fahidi district.

Original materials repurposed by Vikram Devecha

Original materials repurposed by Vikram Devecha

Vikram Divecha's Degenerative Disarrangement won the Van Cleef and Arpels Emergent Artist Prize

Vikram Divecha’s Degenerative Disarrangement won the Van Cleef and Arpels Emergent Artist Prize

This year’s fair is remarkably sophisticated and blends the best of regional and local design with top international galleries from as far away as Seoul, Sao Paulo, and Johannesburg. A more robust educational component opens workshops to the public for increased appreciation of the industry. Although it’s the largest design fair in the region, Design Days Dubai can be digested in several concentrated hours, which makes it accessible to everyone.

Adam Selmati Greefe at The Algerian Agency for Culture Outreach

Adam Selmati Greefe at The Algerian Agency for Culture Outreach

Showcasing creations by more than 145 designers, Design Days Dubai will be held 17-21 March, 2014 to coincide with Art Week. For ticketing and timings visit: http://www.designdaysdubai.ae/

This post was co-posted on the fabulous Art in the City Blog