Design Days: Design conquers Dubai

The first fair in the Middle East and South Asia for limited edition design presents itself as a forward-thinking event.


Design / Maria Cristina Didero

The passion for collectable design is going Middle-East, reaching also the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Recently, the growing and maturing art and design community in the UAE not only focuses on regional artists and designers but extends more and more to Western taste and twists. Since a couple of years the small strip of the Emirates is known for its capacity to anticipate trends by being forward thinking and cutting edge and for its peculiar international dynamism. By looking at its sky, several cranes are busy assembling an army of skyscrapers, as the tallest one in the world would not be enough any more.

After the booming of Art Dubai - since its beginning in 2007, the number of commercial galleries jumped from 7 to 50, more than the whole Cooperation Council for the Arab States (GCC) together –, its sixth, 2012 edition consolidated itself by becoming one of the prominent appointments for contemporary art in the Arabic area. Now it is Design's turn. Clearly, there is huge potential. The interior design and fit out market in the GCC has set to see USD 8.6 billion worth of contracts awarded in 2011 compared to USD 5.1 billion two years ago. The Arabian business data of late 2011 is clear: Emiratis from Dubai alone annually spend AED 1.32 billion, with Arab Expatriates spending AED 740 million and European Expatriates spending AED 465 million. The new Dubai Design Days fair, directed by French Cyril Zammit, is the first fair in the Middle East and South Asia for limited edition design and presents itself as a forward-thinking event, including exhibitions, debates, and educational programs by the world's leading designers. "With a fantastic list of galleries from all over the world and an educational programme, we believe Design Days Dubai will quickly establish itself as a forum for exploring contemporary and historic design both in the region and globally, and address the growing demand for investment choices in art and design. These things combined make for an incredibly exciting starting point."

Top: Kranen / Gille, Fredersen Miami wingchair, Priveekollektie gallery. Above: Paul Leobach, Watson table Carwan Gallery

Design Days Dubai will debut as an integral part of Art Week 2012, from March 17th to the 22nd, at a new, dedicated venue in Downtown Dubai, two steps away from the majestic a href="" target="_blank">Burj Khalifa. The twenty most relevant galleries worldwide will present, for the first time to Arabic eyes, the most exciting evolutions of contemporary, limited edition works. The location in Downtown Dubai itself is already a statement: in a uniquely designed venue, carefully conditioned for the most sensitive pieces of work, underneath the "big, city tower", amidst thrilling shopping destinations and luxurious restaurants. If Dubai is the undisputed creative capital of the area, this quarter is considered the ultimate lifestyle and business community center. The ambitious mission is of Dubai Design Days is to establish a flagship event for design collectors from all around the region, namely Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait; but also provide an international platform to encourage integration between local and international design.

The Design Days logo

Galleries have to respect the highest standards of quality and curate their booths as in museums. "There is a great cultural offer in the UAE: Museums in Sharjah, art galleries in Dubai and world-standard exhibitions in Abu Dhabi. In Dubai, the main galleries are either at the DIFC Gate Village or in Al Quoz. They have now reached international standard and some of them are part of the most important fairs such as Art Basel", states Cyril Zammit. For Zammit, Dubai is ideally located, geographically and logically, to become the design center for the Middle East and South Asia. The vigorous growth of different infrastructures in the region has created a great appeal for the design market. "We want to be the event that brings to Dubai the best of international design. As Dubai is a strong catalyst for the region, we are convinced that the initiative we are undertaking this year will be generating many more and we cannot wait for this to happen," says Zammit.

We want to be the event that brings to Dubai the best of international design.We are convinced that the initiative we are undertaking this year will be generating many more and we cannot wait for this to happen

Christian Astuguevieille, Miraki, 2011, Frankiska Kessler gallery

The focus is not only on the market but also on establishing a strong educational platform, organizing workshops and lectures during the fair period and throughout the year, to create a future generation of design collectors. Moreover, the event aims to showcase up to ten individual solo exhibitions with live and interactive performances and a major show from renowned, international institutions. For its inaugural year, explains Zammit, "we are delighted to have the patronage and support of some of the world's leading names such as Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana, award-winning Emirati design entrepreneur Rami Farook, Beirut star designer Nada Debs, educator Li Edelkoort, and Alexander von Vegesack, Chairman of Vitra Design Museum".

Christian Astuguevieille, Miraki, 2011, Frankiska Kessler gallery

Art Dubai and Design Days will coincide, giving enough time for visitors to experience both fairs. Jointly marketed under the Art Week brand, the fairs will complement each other, attracting international collectors to the emirate and involving the local cultural community.

We asked the director if design is already considered a hot commodity in UAE: "Design is an essential part of the new lifestyles developed in the region. Now that the art market has nicely matured, design is the natural complement to the cultural scene here". Design as a natural complement of international cultural scenes. Maria Cristina Didero

Kang Myung Sun, Sun From the Glitter Cabinet, 2011, Seomi gallery