The life of luxury at Louvre Abu Dhabi

The life of luxury at Louvre Abu Dhabi
The museum’s latest exhibition explores 10 millennia of opulence. (Getty)
Updated 15 November 2019

The life of luxury at Louvre Abu Dhabi

The life of luxury at Louvre Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: “10,000 Years of Luxury” — the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s eighth and latest exhibition — sheds light on how the multidimensional notion of luxury transformed overtime, from the ancient to the modern era, stretching from the Americas to the Far East. It runs until February 18.

Based on a universal theme that is being explored on a grand scale for the first time in the Middle East, it is a fascinating presentation of 350 sumptuous items of art, jewelry, fashion, tableware, and furniture, all on loan from renowned international museums, design and fashion houses, including the collection of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“In today’s world, luxury is, of course, everywhere,” Olivier Gabet, the director of Paris’ Musée des Arts décoratifs and the exhibition’s curator, said during a press preview. “I saw luxury when I left Paris yesterday and I saw luxury when I arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday, as well. It’s a notion that shapes our world. I think that museums are always about knowledge, enjoyment, sharing — but also giving people clues to understand the world they live in.”




Olivier Gabet is the director of Paris’ Musée des Arts décoratifs and the exhibition’s curator. (Getty)

As the exhibition proves, the beauty of luxury lies in its contrasting nature. It represents different things to different people. It can be miniscule and monumental, simple and elaborate, tangible and abstract, personal and public. Above all, it is an emblem of sophistication, exclusivity, connoisseurship, and the highest level of craftsmanship.

A “dialogue between civilizations” is how the curator describes the contents of the show, which is spread across 12 rooms. Naturally, given the region’s rich history in the production of diverse forms of art, many of the showcased objects — particularly the older ones — hail from the Middle East.

In fact, as soon as one enters the dimly lit show, a glimpse of Abu Dhabi’s history is on view through an exciting recent find on Abu Dhabi’s Marwah Island  — the world’s oldest pearl. It is 8,000 years old and less than one centimeter in size. Pearl diving was a dangerous but lucrative trade, which was a mainstay of the UAE’s economy, pre-oil. Aside from its rarity, the size of the pale pink beauty is what makes it precious. As Gabet aptly put it: “Small is beautiful, always.”




Gabet made note of an elegant silk cape from 1989 created by the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. (Supplied)

Next to the tiny pearl is a bedazzling, nine-strand, Indian-designed pearl necklace from the late 1800s, formerly belonging to the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. The story goes that the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, gifted this piece of jewelry to the singer when she visited the Emirates in the early 1970s.

From Greater Syria, there is a beautiful selection of ancient earrings, pendants, bands, and pearls — extracted from the coastal city of Ugarit (known today as Ras Shamra), which was a hotspot for metallurgy during ancient times. These little scraps of gold — a material regarded as the ‘flesh of the Gods’ in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians — represent what is known as ‘funerary jewelry,’ which was likely placed in tombs to accompany the deceased to the afterlife.  

The dexterous artisans of Egypt were famed for their refined skills in the visual and textile arts, and the exhibition includes a massive Mamluk wool carpet from the late 15th century, embellished with intricate geometric patterns. In another room, a voluptuous enameled mosque lamp is inscribed with a dedication to the Mamluk ruler Sultan Baybars II, who likely commissioned the piece.




The Indian-designed pearl necklace from the late 1800s formerly belonged to the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. (Supplied)

In the more-modern sections of the exhibition, haute couture becomes dominant, with dresses from the popular Lebanese designers Elie Saab and Rabih Kayrouz, and Tunisia’s Azzedine Alaia on display.

Gabet made note of an elegant silk cape from 1989, created by the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, which, Gabet claimed, was inspired by the Algerian-born designer's visits to Morocco. On its back is sewn a fluttering layer of small, purple and red pieces of ribbed fabric — reminiscent of the boisterous bougainvillea flowers found in the streets of Morocco.  

“Behind these important names, you have thousands and thousands of people working every day to master a craft or a skill,” said Gabet. “I think that this exhibition is not just about the superficial ideas people have about luxury, but also an homage to human creativity.”


Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene
Updated 21 min 44 sec ago

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene
  • Meet the director and producer leading the charge for a new wave of Algerian cinema

PARIS: Algerian director and producer Aissa Djouamaa (whose debut feature, “Cilima,” was helmed under his ‘artist name’ Aissa ben Said) may have chosen to keep his distances from the media, but he remains, nonetheless, a deeply committed artist, both behind the camera and on the ground. He is recognized as someone who has initiated a major and profound change in the movie industry of his native country, Algeria.

Perseverance is one of Djouamaa’s major qualities. When he was rejected by the School of Dramatic Arts in Algiers due to his unsatisfactory baccalaureate grades, he decided to study biology for four years, but his passion for cinema did not fade. So, in 2007 he took the decision to join the Tunis School of Arts and Cinema.

"I enrolled there with the intention of becoming an actor. But when I discovered the universe of the film industry, I started focusing on the picture, the frame and the writing,” he says.

“Cilima” is typical of the ideals behind Nouvelle Vague Algerienne, aimed as it is at reviving Algerian cinema. (Supplied)

Djouamaa ranked top of his class for two consecutive years before encountering a major problem. “I realized that I was attracted to disturbing social issues, to topics that were not supposed to be addressed,” he says. “I decided that for my final project I would make a movie about the aggressive police attacks that took place during the local derby between the Tunisian football teams Esperance Sportive de Tunis and Club Africain.” However, he was unable to get the necessary authorization, so his film was never completed.

In summer 2010, Djouamaa traveled to Algeria to produce his first short film “Un Cri Sans Echo” (A scream without echo), which focused on marginalized musicians living in Souk Ahras, the artist's hometown. The film was screened during the Doc à Tunis festival in April 2011, just months after then-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted at the start of the Arab Spring, and it earned Djouamaa his diploma.

When he returned to Algeria, he encountered numerous problems, mainly financial. “I worked as a sales consultant for a multinational company. Every vacation I had, I would make a short film,” he says. “I also taught at the Office des Établissements de Jeunes, which produced my first film.”

Djouamaa’s second movie — “Colors, the Country and Me,” was about a hero of Souk Ahras: Taoufik Makhloufi, the only Algerian to win a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Perseverance is one of Djouamaa’s major qualities. (Supplied)

“It’s about the new generation that perceives Algeria from a different angle,” he says. “It was time to write a new page of Algeria’s history as seen through the eyes of this generation.”

In order to emphasize a different vision to that of traditional non-fiction filmmakers, Djouamaa next decided to take part in his own documentary. “Talking about Algeria’s 50th Independence Day does not necessarily mean talking about the Algerian revolution as such, but rather talking about what Algeria has experienced, from independence until today,” he says.

Djouamaa was beginning to make a name for himself in his homeland. In 2014, he participated in the first Algiers French Institute laboratory and his film “Makash Kifach No Way” was broadcast on French television. The following year, he quit his job and headed to Canada to participate in KINOMADA — a non-profit film production platform — and to shoot his first fictional film, the short “We Return to Paradise,” which featured a rabbi, a priest and an imam. “I have never thought of presenting it in Algeria, as the topic (exploring the merits of art vs. religion) remains taboo.”

In 2016, he took part in a summer program at Paris’ renowned La Fémis film and television school. There, he filmed the Place de la Republique square during the “Nuit Debout” (Up all night) protests against new labor laws. “It has always been the French producing documentaries about Algeria,” he says. “It was about time that an Algerian made a documentary about France.”

His experiences in Canada and France inspired Djouamaa — despite Algeria’s “suffocating bureaucracy” — to establish his own production company, Nouvelle Vague Algerienne (Algerian New Wave). And it was his second fictional short, “Un Homme, Deux Théatres” (One man, two theaters), that saw his reputation grow outside of Algeria.

Djouamaa hopes to see Algerian cinema rise again. (Supplied)

“This film was the door to international recognition,” he says. “It got screened all over the globe. I even received an award for it in Madagascar.”

At the 2017 Carthage Film Festival, Djouamaa encountered members of the Algerian Ministry of Culture, which only served to reinforce his belief that he was operating outside of his country’s mainstream media business. “They were wondering, ‘Who is this stranger, so unfamiliar to Algerian society, who doesn’t seem interested in who we are?’” he says.

But he got on better with the director of the Algerian commission which allocates funds to filmmakers, obtaining funding for five projects. He went on to shoot his first feature film “Cilima,” which he has described as a “one-of-a-kind film” that combined stories created by four young filmmakers from across Algeria.

“Cilima” is typical of the ideals behind Nouvelle Vague Algerienne, aimed as it is at reviving Algerian cinema.

“I am an artist who recognizes the enormous potential of the young generation. The Algerian New Wave is not just about producing projects talking about present Algeria. It’s a whole educational project. We are trying to make a change”, he explains. “I am a staunchly committed artist, a member of the Hirak. I have always refused to be part of the ingrained system.”

He went on to shoot his first feature film “Cilima,” which he has described as a “one-of-a-kind film” that combined stories created by four young filmmakers from across Algeria. (Supplied)

That system in Algeria, he explains, “was based on revolutionary films, subsidized with huge amounts of public money. Algerian cinema reached its peak with the Palme d'Or awarded in 1975 to Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. Then came the black decade that saw the number of movie theaters fall from 500 to just 40.”

Djouamaa hopes to see Algerian cinema rise again. Along with two other producers, he has set up the Basma Collective. “In this country we have a lack in film schools,” he explains. “It is extremely important not to cut corners. We are in the process of setting up Timi Lab — a writing development venture — in Timimoun, in the Algerian Sahara, with the help of funds from the international film industry. We are also preparing an African and Arab festival called Timi Film Days.”

As for his own filmmaking, Djouamaa is currently in the process of developing a documentary that he says will “destabilize the current system, especially its relations with France.” It is based around the story of the village of Reggane, the location of French nuclear tests between 1960 and 1968.

“I decided not to make a historical movie, but instead to bring in my creative touch,” he says. “The story is about an association that contacts an international law firm (in relation to the Reggane tests). The latter files a complaint before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Clearly, Djouamaa’s Algerian New Wave is set on making waves.


THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
Updated 53 min 42 sec ago

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
  • The Lebanese artist discusses her 2021 mixed-media artwork, inspired by Beirut and showcased at the inaugural edition of Menart Fair in Paris last month

DUBAI: I started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. It began with a piece of my diary that I wrote in 1975. I was writing every day in this diary, describing a lot of paths that I used to walk in Beirut when I was 13. I was really struck by that. We were extremely free at that moment; we could do whatever we wanted, but we were well aware of the political situation. I would write everything that was happening in Lebanon during the beginning of the Civil War.

I took my diary and started to play with maps of Beirut, mixing what I remember with what’s happening now. I left Lebanon a long time ago, but I still keep going back and forth. I trained as an architect in France and I never forgot this idea of maps and psychogeography. I was very much inspired by how you reconstruct your own geography. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about how you keep searching for others, sensations, vegetation and light.

She started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. (Supplied)

In “Wandering City #17,” the writing is based on my diary entry for June 28, 1975. I went to my parents’ office with my mother to pick up my passport because I was traveling. We had to meet my father at the temple, which was next to my parent’s office. There were a lot of bombs on the way. June 28 was a real trauma for everyone. 

I picked pink because I wanted something happy. Even if the war was happening, we were extremely happy. Pink and orange were the colors of my teenage years in the Seventies, or at least what I remember when I visualize that time: the colors of the clothes, movie posters, record covers, store fronts.

The process is, I transfer my map onto the cotton canvas and I pin everything and then I draw on top of it with acrylic pencil, layer by layer. Only the writing is stitched. When I do my maps, it takes forever, but it’s a kind of meditation and I don’t want it to finish. It’s a way to stay in my childhood. I’m trying to say goodbye to Beirut, but it’s not working.


Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café

Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café
Updated 18 June 2021

Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café

Paws for thought: Inside Riyadh’s first cat café
  • Arab News visits the recently opened Cup & Cat Café in As-Sahafah

RIYADH: The cat café phenomenon — which began in Taiwan more than 20 years ago — has finally reached the Saudi capital.

The Cup & Cat Café is located in Riyadh’s As-Sahafah district. When we visited, we saw people of all ages coming to enjoy the cats, from university students studying on their laptops, to small toddlers running around petting their furry friends.

It is designed to be a calming place — from the relaxing music to the light, neutral colors of the walls and furniture. all of which immediately puts visitors at ease.

The Cup & Cat Café is located in Riyadh’s As-Sahafah district. (Supplied)

On the ground floor of the two-story establishment are booths and seating areas for guests, along with a coffee bar. The café offers a fairly standard selection of drinks, including coffees and blended beverages such as chocolate milkshakes and cold mojitos. There are also snacks on offer, including French fries, cakes and pastries.

The food is fine, but nothing to get excited about. But, let’s face it, no one’s visiting a cat café because they want to get a great meal. Instead, they’re going to grab their drinks and head up the stairs (or take the elevator) to the second story, where the main attractions await.

The cats’ ‘home base’ is sectioned off by a gate and is, happily, extremely well-maintained. There are plenty of resting areas for the cats, and even a separate ‘quiet room’ with glass walls where visitors can sit in a calm space with the animal(s) of their choice.

There are plenty of resting areas for the cats, and even a separate ‘quiet room’ with glass walls where visitors can sit in a calm space with the animal(s) of their choice. (Supplied)

It’s worth mentioning that there are currently only three cats in the café, however, but the baristas did mention that they plan to expand and add more in the near future.

Potential visitors will likely have some concerns over hygiene and smells, but this was honestly one of the cleanest cafés we have visited in Riyadh; every surface was immaculate and there are sanitizer stations placed throughout along with a chart of procedures on every table to ensure the cats are being handled in a safe, hygienic manner that is enjoyable for both humans and animals. This is an all-ages café, and such advice is particularly important for young children who wish to handle the cats.

The whole place is very family-friendly, with a children’s section upstairs equipped with a selection of books, a TV, and several small cat toys. (Supplied)

The Cup & Cat Café is actually a great place for kids to learn about interacting safely with animals and to learn more about pets’ needs. The whole place is very family-friendly, with a children’s section upstairs equipped with a selection of books, a TV, and several small cat toys.

But it’s also a good place to just hang out with some friends (it’s open until 2 a.m.) or to get on with some work, especially when it first opens at 4 p.m. It’s a quiet location with free wi-fi, so you can bring along your laptop, find a secluded corner and get to work — possibly with a cat on your lap.

Overall, our visit was a very therapeutic experience. It’s hard to feel stressed with a purring kitty next to you, and it seemed that the animals themselves were happy with the situation too — they were all very friendly with guests, allowing themselves to be petted and fussed over. Expect to see the Cup & Cat Café making plenty of appearances on social media over the summer.


What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati

What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati
Updated 18 June 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati

What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati

Seeing Serena is an in-depth chronicle of the return to tennis of Serena Williams after giving birth to her daughter, and an insightful cultural analysis of the most consequential female athlete of her time.
It is a riveting chronicle of her turbulent 2019 tour season and a revealing portrait of who she is, both on and off the court.
Author Gerald Marzorati shadows her through her 2019 season, from Melbourne and the Australian Open, to Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, and on to the US Open as she seeks her 24th Grand Slam singles title.
He writes about her tennis and her forays into fashion, investing, and developing her personal brand on social media.
Seeing Serena illuminates Williams’s singular status as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time and — in a moment when race and gender are the most talked-about topics in America and beyond— a pop icon like no other.
Marzorati observes her, listens to her, studies her, explores her roles in society and history— sees Serena fully, in all the ways she has come to matter.


Kylie Jenner spotted in Amina Muaddi designs  

Kylie Jenner spotted in Amina Muaddi designs  
Updated 17 June 2021

Kylie Jenner spotted in Amina Muaddi designs  

Kylie Jenner spotted in Amina Muaddi designs  

DUBAI: Jordanian-Romanian designer Amina Muaddi has been the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s go-to designer this week. 

On Wednesday, one of Muaddi's Instagram posts showed reality TV star and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner — carrying her three-year-old daughter Stormi, from her relationship with rapper Travis Scott — stepping out in a pair of white boots by Muaddi called “the Pernille bootie.” The Kylie Cosmetics founder also accessorized her look with the brand’s Pernille handbag from the designer’s newly launched line.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

Earlier in the week, Jenner’s older sister Kim Kardashian shared a series of images with her 228 million Instagram followers of herself in a green suit by French fashion label Jean Paul Gaultier and a daring corset by London-based Spanish designer Luis De Javier, which she paired with Muaddi’s green Karma pumps.

Muaddi’s brand — famous for its signature flared heels — has garnered a loyal following of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, and many more.