Eleven designers from the UAE are feted at Milan Design Week
The next generation: Milan Design Week is given a taste of Emirati creativity
Milan Design Week, which took place last week, is the largest event in the industry’s calendar, drawing designers, buyers, critics and curators to the northern Italian city. This year, the Emirates was represented with a show for the first time.
The UAE designer Khalid Shafar, who creates furniture and textile pieces, selected 10 Emirati designers to show their work at the Salone del Mobile in UAE Design Stories: The Next Generation from The Emirates. The exhibition which ran for five days from April 17, was supported by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, and minister Noura Al Kaabi was in Milan.
“The ministry is delighted to support an event of this magnitude. Milan Design Week is more than just a design exhibition – it provides a platform that has a profound and lasting impact,” Ms Al Kaabi said. “Design is a disruptive and powerful creative force in shaping narratives, understanding, and conversations. Sharing stories, timeless through the ages, by using design continues to move societies forward.”
Many of the designs reflected traditional Bedouin or Emirati techniques, a fruitful area of investigation recently among young designers.
Ahmad Al Areef, an Emirati artist, displayed a work based on the formation of sand dunes. Latifa Saeed showed Kinestic Khoos, in which she created sculptures of children’s toys from interlocking palm sheets, updating a traditional Emirati form of object-making.
A number of the works on display in Milan were produced for events within the UAE, showing how Dubai’s varied investments in art and design are functioning as incubators for artists. Kinestic Khoos, for example, were first presented in 2015 at Design Days Dubai through Tashkeel’s participation. Saeed was one of the original Latifa College “eleven”, the artists who studied with Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum, who later founded Tashkeel on the site of their former art school.
Salem Al Mansoori showed 3D-printed sculptures of the series that he showed at Ishara: Signs, Symbols and Shared Languages, the UAE Unlimited-supported exhibition focused on communication that is taking place at Concrete in Alserkal Avenue. He spoke about the sculptures – intricately patterned, pristine white objects encased, like fragile totems, within small glass vitrines – at the Ishara opening.
“My background is in computer engineering and I have a master’s in interactive design, so I wanted to write a computer program that effectively takes a piece of text, and creates a sculpture from it,” he said.
Al Mansoori would read aloud a text and assign parameters to its reading – the tempo, the rise and fall of his voice – that would be translated into an algorithm. That algorithm was then used to generate the 3D-printed objects, so that each sculpture is in fact a direct record of a poem.
“The texts I chose were Hassan Sharif’s Going Inside, in which he tries to define what being an artist is,” Al Mansoori said. “I also chose Abbas Kiarastomi’s In The Dictionary, in which he argues that in any dictionary, the definition of nothing should be the definition of everything.”
Other artists include Aljoud Lootah, Roudha Alshamsi, Zeinab Alhashemi, and Azza Al Qubaisi. The event is part of a larger initiative called UAE Design Stories exhibitions, whose next event will be held at the London Design Festival in September. That exhibition, Nomadism: Yesterday & Now, will show newly commissioned work by the same cohort of designers.