Dubai is one of the few cities in the world to have both an art and a design fair run concurrently. Taking place from March 16 to 20, Design Days Dubai is the only fair dedicated to design in the whole of the Middle East and South Asia, and has played a fundamental role of putting the region firmly on the map as a hub of creativity to match the likes of London and New York.
For the past year, organisers have been reaching out to designers across the globe to bring together an exciting and diverse line-up of exhibitors for what is set to be not only the biggest fair so far, but one with the largest Middle Eastern contribution to date, with more than half of the presenting exhibitors coming from the region.
International exhibitor highlights
This Beirut gallery reintroduces vintage pieces from the 1950s and ’60s including furniture, lighting, and decorative items. Since last year, the gallery has also exhibited a bespoke modernist design line by architect George Amatoury. For Design Days, the gallery will be displaying intriguing vintage objects that have been fused with modern, timeless design.
A small design boutique from New York, but widely regarded as one of the most influential design galleries of the past few years. It will bring an amazing selection of unusual objects to the fair from designers such as Studio Job.
Another influential gallery, based in London, founded by pioneering contemporary design gallerist David Gill. One of the first to display the work of Grayson Perry, and to produce some of Zaha Hadid’s first furniture collections, he has championed the work of many designers who
have gone on to become world-famous, including the likes of Ron Arad and Marc Newson.
Exhibiting cutting-edge, experimental design, this Chinese gallery has focused on limited-edition furniture and design objects since it was founded in 2013. It currently has two spaces, one in Los Angeles and one in Beijing 751 Design Park. For a country renowned for its expertise in copying, this is a gallery that aims to remind the world that China is also a master of unique and inventive design.
House of Today
This non-profit organisation from Beirut asked 12 designers to produce unique pieces, resulting in an eclectic selection of funky, cool, unusual and contemporary furniture and objects.
Naqsh Design House
Founded in Amman, Jordan, in 2010, its collections of furniture and home accessories are inspired by both contemporary and traditional Arabic aesthetics. Founders and sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abu-Dail Nqash aim to find pieces that integrate the beauty
of their culture – from art and architecture to calligraphy – with the modern and the minimal.
One of the most exciting South African design galleries for many years, Southern Guild showcases limited edition pieces from some of the most recognised names in the country as well as supporting emerging contemporary designers. In 2014, it launched GUILD, Africa’s only international design fair, in Cape Town. It aims to bring the multi-faceted nature of South African design to the world stage and will be exhibiting an artisanal collection of hand-made and hand-painted furniture, combining traditional story-telling with political allusion and historical and cultural references.
Carpenters Workshop Gallery
With spaces in both London and Paris, this gallery has a strong identity, exhibiting bold and iconic design-art by both emerging designers and established artists. Describing its collections as ‘bringing a refreshing playfulness to the debate between art and design’, expect quirky pieces with a sense of humour.
19th Century Antiques
Bringing something slightly different to the fair, this Dubai-based gallery holds a vast selection of genuine 19th century antiques including clock sets, bronzes, paintings, cabinets and vases. Work by renowned artists, horologists, cabinet-makers and ceramicists such as Linke, Grohé Frères, Beurdeley, Raingo-Frères and Sèvres all feature. Each piece is rooted in history and visitors will find clock sets, bronzes, paintings, cabinets, vases and more, all made with exceptional skill and in mint condition.
1971 Design Space
This multi-functional design space is set to open this month in Sharjah, and is dedicated to exploring all forms of contemporary design from graphic, furniture and interior to interactive design and new technologies. The space will run curated exhibitions and public programmes and aims to become a regional and international design hub. It will be working closely with local designers, architects, schools and universities.
Arty by AMN
An Ajman-based gallery, showcasing for the very first time. Its work is inspired by the ancestors of the UAE and draws out the natural elements of the country that all generations have shared: sand, sea and palm trees. Drawing heavily on the rich heritage and traditions of the country, the range of modern furniture and art combine functional, contemporary and traditional design.
Fatima Bint Mohammed Initiative
A carpet production and community development programme that empowers more than 4,000 female artisans in Afghanistan, helping to provide women and children with an education. FBMI carpets has become known for producing some of the most versatile and modern designs in the industry while providing whole communities with access to social services such as healthcare, education and vocational training.
Lootah is a Dubai-based designer and will be launching her very first collection at Design Days. Her interest in patterns, folds and geometric shapes led to her inaugural collection titled ‘The Oru Series’, which is inspired by Japanese origami and presents a modern take on
an ancient art form.
The Design Days collection from this Riyadh and Dubai-based concept focuses on the intersection between man and nature, exhibiting objects made from a combination of natural wood and other, more industrial, materials like waxed steel. The pieces are sourced from around the world and the collection includes work from a variety of Middle Eastern and international artists and designers.
This year, well-known Dubai-based project space Tashkeel will be exhibiting the limited edition work of four designers who recently completed the Tashkeel Design Programme. Together, their work makes up the newly launched design label Tanween – a selection of pieces that have been entirely produced in the UAE. Tashkeel has been working to promote the variety of industries available within the UAE to showcase how they can be used to produce work within the country and prove that, in additional to having phenomenal creative talent, the UAE also has incredible and skilled producers.
One thing setting Dubai Design Days apart from other international fairs is the ongoing programme of special projects. This year Beijing Design Week will be showcasing a variety of Chinese designers and bringing limited-edition, affordable pieces to the fair; Carwan Gallery from Italy will be displaying a collection of bespoke falcon perches by Massimo Faoin, in homage to falconry in the UAE with live falcon demonstrations; Amsterdam-based Iraqi designer Hozan Zangana will be demonstrating the process of creating porcelain objects with ceramist Suzan Becking; and a selection of young designers from Taipei – the 2016 World Design Capital – will be running a number of workshops. A full public programme for 2015 is also soon to be announced, and a number of not-to-be-missed installations and exhibits have already been confirmed from some of
the most influential and iconic designers of the 21st century.
Lumière by Commonplace Studio
A light installation from this Amsterdam studio will be the main attraction of this year’s fair – specifically commissioned for Design Days and presented by Victor Hunt DesignArt Dealer. The 2.5m wide installation, titled ‘Lumière’, comprises 28 suspended bulbs, each fitted with a micro projector so that when standing beneath them, visitors will be able to look up to see projections of different skies across the glass, from fog and clouds to electric storms.
The prominent lighting supplier, in association with Saway & Moroni in Milan, will be exhibiting masterpieces by some of the biggest names in design including Oluafur Eliasson and Zaha Hadid. Eliasson’s Starbrick lighting module is an impressive and versatile piece that can be built as a free-standing or suspended sculpture and incorporates LED lighting technology. Hadid’s colour-changing VorteXX lamp
will also be on display along with Hani Rashid’s contemporary chandelier design: LQ-P-Chandelier.
In addition to the VorteXX lamp, two other iconic designs by Hadid will be on display at the fair: a pair of high silver vases (of which only 25 pairs were produced in Vienna), and David Gill gallery will be bringing Hadid’s award-winning ‘Liquid Glacial’ table to the region for the first time.
Rene Roubicek glasswork
Considered one of the world masters of glass-making, Rene Roubicek – now aged 92 – from the Czech Republic has created a modern and imaginative glass lighting sculpture to be presented by Preciosa Lighting, Prague.
Van Cleef and Arpels Middle East Emergent Artist Prize
This year’s prize winner will be announced on March 15 from four finalists of which three are based in the UAE and one from Kuwait. This year’s theme was ‘functional and conceptual design’ and there were more than 80 applications from across the region. Finalists’ designs include a modular coffee table, a wall hanging and a set of organic and flexible wood light installations that play with shadows.