Al Quoz newcomer J+A Gallery displays items from 1800s
When I pass through the warehouse door of J+A Gallery in Al Quoz on a Tuesday afternoon, it’s as though I’ve stepped into another era. The loft-style space is illuminated with strategically placed vintage-style lamps. A huge clock face sits on the floor, a jazz singer’s lull fills the room and two men, one wearing a jazz hat and the other a flat cap, walk over to greet me.
As I venture further into the gallery, I spot what looks like an old camera (actually a periscope), a plane propeller (a ceiling fan) and huge wooden tables. Each object has tenderly been given pride of place under a spotlight within its own space.
Dubai-based Germans Arne Augustini and Sebastien Jaroslawski are the minds behind this remarkable new art venue, which sells rare furniture, lighting and unusual finds from European factories that date back as far as 1890. They say they are so inspired by the traditional beauty of their home town, Liepzieg, that they wanted to introduce it here.
‘The idea is love for the object,’ says Augustini. ‘I like this stuff very much. It’s something that’s not available in this country – for me, it was missing. We’re trying to keep pieces in their original state, but some are up-cycled to give them new value.’
Gallery director Sebastien says the items have travelled far and wide to make it to Dubai. ‘We have a small crew in Germany. You can’t go on the internet and buy something like this. The crew travel around Germany and eastern Europe to small villages where they have classic designs from factories that don’t exist any more,’ he says. ‘They salvage them, reclaim them and refurbish them.’ The pieces are relics of eras that have passed but, as Jaroslawski says, they hold so much history. ‘They tell a story. It’s something real. In this world of copy and paste, people are really looking for something that gives a new value.’ Here, the duo take us through some of their stand-out pieces, and the history behind them. J+A Gallery, Al Quoz 1, Street 4a, Compound 5, warehouse 15, www.ja-gallery.com (55 395 0495).
'Small table' Above, ‘This is made from a shipping pallet, and has been restored. We have even smaller ones, too.’ From Dhs1,900.
'Glass boxes' Above ‘These are original “battery glasses”: when there was a power cut at the factories, they put acid inside and used them for power. They used them for power storage in olden times when there were no batteries. If you go to the factories, you’ll see hundreds of these glasses in a row. They’re beautiful: the way you use them can be left to your imagination. They have history. Every piece is unique, because they all look different.’ Dhs790-950.
'Workers’ cabinet' Above ‘Factory workers used to put their tools in here. This is in original condition, except for the wood plate. It’s made by a famous European company that specialises in steel furniture – it provided chairs for the Bauhaus students, because they’re stable and you can’t destroy them. It’s great quality. This one is a very rare piece from the ’30s. Some on the market have open sides, but this one is closed to protect it from dust. We don’t know how many there are left. You could store drinks in here, or tools.’ Dhs25,000.
'Periscope' Above ‘This is a periscope from the ’60s that was used in the military. The tank was dismantled and we salvaged this thing. There are so many mechanics and optics inside – it’s high quality and we put a lot of effort into stripping and polishing it. It’s functional, it works, but it’s also a beautiful design. There’s nothing electronic inside. It’s really eye-catching.’ Dhs40,000.
'Hairdryer' Above ‘This is a hair blower from the ’20s. You can see where the hot air used to come out. It’s made by Wella. Nobody would use it as a hairdryer these days, so we decided to put a lamp inside it. It looks really beautiful – kind of like an alien.’ Dhs25,000.
'Table and fan' Above ‘This wood came from a working bench at a factory. It’s on a camera projector stand from the ’20s. It’s an upcycled table, a unique object – you can’t reproduce it in the same shape. The ceiling fan is upside down and if you try to lift it, it’s heavy. It’s made from polished aircraft aluminium. It’s in working condition and is streamlined art deco style. It’s from the ’50s.’ Table Dhs22,500; fan Dhs12,500.