x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Design Days Dubai: a big chance that has paid off

Design Days Dubai could have gone either way, but the event has proved its ambitious scope to have been fully justified.

Cyril Zammit, the director of Design Days Dubai, discusses an installation with a guest during the preview night.
Cyril Zammit, the director of Design Days Dubai, discusses an installation with a guest during the preview night.

It really could have gone either way, but Design Days Dubai - the region's first design-specific event of this scale, set in a sprawling air-conditioned tent in front of the Burj Khalifa - has pulled it off.

Across the 22 exhibitors bringing limited edition pieces of vintage furniture and high-end design, the quality is consistent. It comes down, in part, to a good brief by Design Days' director Cyril Zammit: the galleries have not simply brought along their brashest and flashiest - an irritatingly common approach when galleries from the West deal with a new Gulf market.

Instead, there are many considered collections here, from vintage furniture through to contemporary features that show off the more playful and technological evolutions of design.

The galleries have not simplified, either; there are pieces to challenge. Carwan Gallery, a Beirut-based gallery, represents both international and regional designers, and its booth includes a screen made from the black agal cord worn around men's headdress, created by the UAE's Khalid Shafar.

"We decided to create an exhibition that would show contemporary perspectives on Middle Eastern handmade processes," says Nicolas Bellavance Lecompte, the director of Carwan. He explains that the gallery regularly brings international designers, such as Canada's Philippe Malouin, to the region so that they can learn and respond to local craft traditions.

From Korea, Gallery Seomi is another highlight here, with ceramic block furniture created by Lee Hunchung, and a selection of cocoon-shaped cabinets made by Kang Myung Sun. Look out for the wonderful rocking chaise longue designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1978, wrought in imbuia wood, exhibited by R20th Century from New York.

How the local and incoming regional market responds to this event will be a barometer of its success. A number of exhibiting galleries say they already have clients in the region - how landing on their doorstep will work out, however, remains to be seen.


Design Days Dubai continues until Wednesday, Downtown Dubai. Entrance is Dh50



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