Industry Observation: A column by Khalid Shafar

Industry Observation: A column by Khalid Shafar

Following Dubai's celebrated 'Art Week'

Editor: Buro 24/7

Image: Fann Designs
Image: Squad-Design
Image: Design Days Dubai

Buro 24/7 columnist Khalid Shafar breaks down the requirements for the region to respond to, and invest in, the needs of new design-led initiatives
  • As the curtains went down on Dubai Art Season, many reviews and post reports went out about the many events took place; including SIKKA Art fair, Design Days Dubai and Art Dubai. For me, it's about sharing an industry observation. I had visited almost all major events during this month-long season and the one thing that stole my attention was the shift in approach in participation.

A major example was in Design Days Dubai, a fair that is structured on the participation of galleries. There was a strong presence for organisations, councils and initiatives that support design other than being purely commercial galleries selling limited edition work of emerging and established international designers.

  • Industry Observation
  • Industry Observation
  • More than five spaces in the fair were occupied by such exhibitors. Coming back from UK once again was The Craft Council who brought a selection of British contemporary craft works and exhibited them during the fair reflecting on the work of artisans and makers involved in the design process. And then Tashkeel, the Dubai design hub as identified in recent coverage by Wallpaper* magazine, had a very successful participation this year that fitted well with the context of the fair. The art organisation had commissioned 3 young Emirati creatives to design an object each for the fair integrating a craft into their work reflecting on the rich heritage and culture of their origin. Although not new to collectors and the design savvy audience, The Algerian Agency for Culture Outreach was among the line up too, with a presentation of work from more that nine Algerian product designers showcasing them for the first time in UAE.

Stepping out of its natural habitat of the art world, FN Designs gallery introduced the initiative 10/100/1000 where 10 regional designers were commissioned to design a stool for the fair with a production run of 10 pieces each stool and a commercial value of 1000 US dollars for each.

    Industry Observation
    Finally, my new discovery this year was Squad Design, a Beirut-based initiative by two Lebanese entrepreneurs for whom design was their main motive to establish this production initiative starting off by supporting five Lebanese young designers to show their work for the first time in public... Some of the works were the first for their designers. It somehow reminded me of the Starch Foundation established by designers Rabih Kayrouz and Tala Hajjar to encourage and support their young Lebanese counterparts, and the industry as a whole. Potentially, Squad Design is open for other nationalities too and this is a positive sign of encouragement.  

Industry Observation

All in all, the more participation and establishment of such initiatives and organisations, the more positive signs are added to the growth of the design industry in the region. It was undeniable evidence this year that there is a growing need for such organisations and initiatives that can overcome certain challenges such as production and materials availability facing young and emerging designers.

On the other hand, the market positively started to respond to such needs and more entrepreneurs start to realise the importance of such long-term investments in young and local talents. One-day dream is becoming a reality, and soon we will live it here and among us. It's design that will take the region with storm...

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