Army of 1 eyelet dress, Christian Louboutin rainbow python sandals
Flying into Dubai feels as if you’re descending on the edge of the world. The allure of that mystery, of what lies beyond and beneath the surface, is a feeling that came and left me throughout my stay. Led here by Art Dubai and more personally the desire to experience a region and culture so ingrained in me, being of half-Iranian descent. This was my first time in the Middle East and although I know Dubai is a far cry from the cultural climate of Tehran and Kashan, where my family is from, I couldn’t help but feel the geographical proximity and tap into a deeper core, inherently rich in custom and creativity.
With Art Dubai building its intrigue as a grounds for discovery and a refreshing half of its participating artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, I set off to layer in three UAE based designers who are establishing their own visual language and gaining ground internationally. In that spirit, my vision was to contextualize them outside of the boundaries of their region with contemporary artists that give weight to their conceptual strengths creating a dialogue of energetic expansion.
I embark on my emerald playground of Art Dubai imagery with Army of 1’s polychromatic mash up of structure and flow folding into Masood Kamandy’s dynamic photographic experiments. Kamandy utilizes photography as a basis for material exploration, a mix of analog and digital techniques lend a mystere as to how the image was made drawing a parallel to Army of 1’s where does the fabric end and the pattern begin. Skip to the vibrant shifting optics of Rafaël Rozendaal’s lenticulars in play with the brilliance of Army of 1’s kaleidoscopic print on eyelet. Pushing materials, such as eyelet and mesh, beyond the point of recognition through prints could be Army of 1’s defining direction.
On the other end of the spectrum is Amato Couture’s lavishly eccentric designs. This is statement making style for the bold birds. Voluptuous, intricately embellished acid washed denim drips into the romantic decay of Diana Al-Hadid’s shimmering wall panels. Lying between painting and sculpture Al-Hadid’s pieces read like a treasured vestige of architecture permutating through time and place. This opulent reduction and stripping away to create a sense of longing I see as an opening for Amato’s rarified creations.
My last look at Art Dubai goes to the exquisite designer Madiyah Al Sharqi, poised to become an industry star. Born into a royal family, she is the daughter of the ruler of Fujairah, Dubai’s neighboring Emirate. “Growing up I witnessed my family creating custom gowns for events and fell in love with the design process,” says Al Sharqi as she describes the influence of her upbringing. Al Sharqi’s use of fabric is distinct, contrasting shimmering organza against matte crepe, set against the seminal light and space artist François Morellet, she too creates a language of surfaces. “Fabric selection is the back bone and dictates the feeling of my collections,” she explains. Dreamy detailing is disrupted by unexpected geometries, part octagonal shapes, a playful mix of the strict and the carefree heightened by Morellet’s seemingly random neon tube arrangement in actuality derived through a precise mathematic system.
As noted, the Gulf Region is building momentum and gaining international attention on both fronts of art and fashion. The heart of this creative force can be seen and felt in the art oasis that is Alserkal Avenue. Through a dusty parking lot, a small concrete path opens up onto a brilliant mix of industrial and pristine, a self contained gallery district holding the most compelling programs and spaces. I discover the Iranian-American artist Y.Z. Kami within the recently opened Dubai outpost of New York-based Leila Heller Gallery. The Third Line’s punchy Hassan Hajjaj exhibition is another standout. At the helm of this movement, Madiyah Al Sharqi observes, “What’s different about Dubai is that it is a true melting pot of creatives, nationalities and styles – so you define the future and that is reflected in the energy.”
Special thank you to Cosma De Marinis for hair and makeup creative direction from afar.