Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Nakkash Gallery’s Design Collective presents work from emerging creatives from the region

The exhibition includes furniture, lighting and smaller accessories, by Ahmad Bazazo, Ayah Al Bitar, Eva Szumilas, Nader Gammas, Sahar Bizri and Tarek Elkassouf

Liberty window by Wajih and Omar Nakkash. Courtesy Nakkash Gallery
Liberty window by Wajih and Omar Nakkash. Courtesy Nakkash Gallery

With Dubai Design Week kicking off on November 12, and installations, exhibitions and other initiatives set to pop up across the city, the spotlight will fall firmly on the UAE’s burgeoning design scene in the ­coming weeks.

To get the ball rolling, Nakkash Gallery, one of Dubai’s most established providers of interior design solutions and services, will unveil an exhibition called Design Collective in its D3 showroom tomorrow. Running until November 17, Design Collective gathers works by six emerging designers who are either from, or have a connection to, the Middle East. Nakkash is a family business, run by founder Wajih Nakkash, along with and his son, Omar, and daughter, Aya. When Wajih moved to Dubai in the 1980s and launched his business, the UAE’s design scene could barely even be called fledgling.

“The whole concept behind Design Collective is giving emerging designers the platform and the opportunity to display their works, alongside international brands, within our gallery,” Aya explains. “When Mr Wajih started out, he wasn’t given that opportunity, because the design scene was not very developed. So he wants to give these up-and-coming designers the chance that he wasn’t given.”

Wind light by Nader Gammas. Courtesy Nader Gammas
Wind light by Nader Gammas. Courtesy Nader Gammas

The trio are constantly scouring international fairs and exhibitions for new talent, and together selected the six designers who would present their work as part of this new initiative. “There was no specific brief given to the designers we approached. We gave them freedom in terms of the designs that they wanted to present. Some of the designers have created products specifically for the Design Collective, some are new but have already been showcased – but none have been seen in the UAE before,” Aya explains.

The exhibition includes furniture, lighting and smaller accessories, by Ahmad Bazazo, Ayah Al Bitar, Eva Szumilas, Nader Gammas, Sahar Bizri and Tarek Elkassouf. While there was no brief, there is commonality between the pieces, in that they predominantly consist of marble, brass and wood. All have been produced in either Lebanon or the UAE.

A coffee table by Eva Szumilas. Courtesy Eva Szumilas
A coffee table by Eva Szumilas. Courtesy Eva Szumilas

Standout pieces include Bazazo’s Fragment mirror, which consists of a series of rectangles made from mirror and marble, connected with elegant metal tubing. Szumilas will present a coffee table crafted from cremo delicato stone and brushed brass, while Gammas’s Wind light draws inspiration from Emirati wind towers, transforming these architecture elements into a striking light feature that’s suspended from the ceiling by a series of thin cables. Elkassouf’s Melting Lamps, meanwhile, consist of a marble base intersected by a metal frame inset with lights. “The marble is carved, so it literally looks like it is melting. It’s incredible. The craftsmanship that you see in Lebanon is outstanding,” says Aya.

During Dubai Design Week, Nakkash will also have a stand at the Downtown Design exhibition, promoting two of the brands that it represents – Italy’s Borzalino and Arteriors from the United States. Meanwhile, Wajih and Omar have teamed up for the second time to create a collection of furniture called Tawazun, the Arabic word for ­balance. With the three pieces in this collection, a sleek, narrow console and two coffee tables, there is literal balance (in spite of the fact that the base of the table is not located in the centre of the piece), but also a more metaphorical balance between the materials used – which are marble and brass.

Tarek Elkassouf’s Melting Lamps. Courtesy Tarek Elkassouk
Tarek Elkassouf’s Melting Lamps. Courtesy Tarek Elkassouk

“We are two designers, so we always wanted to use two materials that complement each other aesthetically, but contradict each other in terms of elements, which is why we have a very heavy, solid element, which is the marble,” Omar explains. “The other material, the opposite, is always something thin, so this year we are using brass. It’s a juxtaposition of two materials that blend smoothly. That was always the idea. Since we are two designers from two generations, let’s use two different materials that contradict each other.”

A fourth element, the Liberty window, is a more conceptual piece that captures the duo’s feeling about the current political, social and economic climate in the Middle East. The ­structure depicts a window frame opening on to a skyscape with birds flying in the distance. The base of the piece is made up of darker colours to reflect the current socio-economic state of the region but, progressively, towards the top of the piece, the colours begin to lighten, to represent a brighter future.

“The Liberty window has a much more artistic input. That’s more of an expression of a feeling of frustration but also hope, rather than trying to express an idea or a design. It’s the difference between art and design, ­essentially. It’s an interesting piece and we’re really excited about it,” Omar concludes.


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Saudi architect Albara Saimaldahar on carving his niche with shape-shifting furniture

A celebration of design: Highlights from Dubai Design Week 2017