Inside Dubai’s Theater of Digital Art

Inside Dubai’s Theater of Digital Art
ToDA is operating at a limited capacity. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 October 2020

Inside Dubai’s Theater of Digital Art

Inside Dubai’s Theater of Digital Art
  • Less maximum-security museum, more relaxed moving-image showcase, ToDA’s launch makes for an enjoyable outing

DUBAI: If Vincent Van Gogh or Edvard Munch could time travel, one wonders what they would think about how art has evolved. Or about how much their masterpieces have fetched over the years, or how their works have now been transformed into digitised designs that can float from floor to ceiling.

For us, here in the present, digital art theater is a modern take on consuming artworks; getting up close and personal with renowned paintings without fear of ruining them. It’s certainly an unconventional way of presenting the world’s greatest works without having to worry about transporting multi-million dollar canvasses from city to city.

One brand leading this type of experience is the Theater of Digital Art (ToDA), which has just opened its first permanent space in the Middle East. Following its regional debut exhibit in Saudi Arabia, ToDA is now in the United Arab Emirates, taking over Dubai’s Souk Madinat Jumeirah’s former theatre.




Following its regional debut exhibit in Saudi Arabia, ToDA is now in the United Arab Emirates, taking over Dubai’s Souk Madinat Jumeirah’s former theatre. (Supplied)

“The exhibition in Saudi wasn’t as immersive as it is here; here it is available (to view from) different angles. And because it is a theater (space), it gives a different effect,” ToDA’s general manager, Gabriel Afrim tells Arab News. “Those who already visited in Saudi will get a different experience here.”

The company has definitely brought in the big guns for its first long-running show. Running for three months, “From Monet to Kandinsky. Revolutionary Art” is dedicated to “the most important art movements of late 19th and early 20th centuries” through the vision of nine legendary painters: Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Wassily Kandinsky, Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch, Juan Gris, Robert Delaunay, and Paul Klee.

Here’s how it works. Running every hour, entry includes access to the 45-minute “performance” of various artworks by the artists mentioned.




ToDA collaborates with Vision Multimedia Projects, a Russian company that specializes in these types of multimedia experiences. (Supplied)

“When you walk into a gallery you can see the masterpiece, but here you can see them ‘animated,’ allowing you to see more details in the painting,” Afrim elaborates. “It’s fully immersive. Visitors can sit and enjoy the music and art on the walls.”

ToDA collaborates with Vision Multimedia Projects, a Russian company that specializes in these types of multimedia experiences. Once the show’s concept is confirmed, says Afrim, the partner company works on everything from acquiring rights to both the art and the music, as well as piecing it all together.

Munch’s “The Scream” is very much the star of the show — as relevant today as it was when it first created in 1893 — representing the universal anxiety of man. It will no doubt resonate with many, considering it accurately depicts how the majority of us feel about 2020 so far.




One more offering included in the ticket price (from $20 for adults) is the VR Room that incorporates 3D, virtual-reality and augmented-reality “painting” experiences. (Supplied)

From a personal perspective, ToDA doesn’t replace the experience of viewing the real art pieces; rather it is a nice accompaniment and makes for something different. It is much more child-friendly as well. The children’s Interactive Room allows young visitors to create their own animal coloring, and see it transformed from paper to animation right before their eyes.

One more offering included in the ticket price (from $20 for adults) is the VR Room that incorporates 3D, virtual-reality and augmented-reality “painting” experiences. The permanent arrival of ToDA in Dubai was planned pre-COVID, so it will be interesting to see how well this room takes. While staff members were taking the necessary sanitary precautions, I was keen to avoid trying on a headset.

Taking current times into account, ToDA is operating at a limited capacity — the original plan was to host up to 500 visitors per hour; now it has been reduced to 120. The smaller number actually makes more sense. During my own visit, it was somewhat frustrating to be surrounded by a few individuals who were more occupied with chatting loudly or “doing it for the ‘Gram” rather than taking in the visuals and learning more about the artists. So if you plan on heading there, Afrim offers some advice:

“The beauty of this place is that you don’t have to sit in a certain way to see it and look in a single direction. Personally, I prefer to sit on the floor.”

ToDA’s plan is to remain in Dubai for just under 10 years, running different shows every few months. So there’s definitely time for visitors to get it as right as the organization itself has.


Gigi Hadid opens and closes Versace Fall 2021 show

Gigi Hadid closes the Versace Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear show. Supplied
Gigi Hadid closes the Versace Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear show. SuppliedGigi Hadid closes the Versace Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear show. Supplied
Updated 06 March 2021

Gigi Hadid opens and closes Versace Fall 2021 show

Gigi Hadid closes the Versace Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear show. Supplied

DUBAI: Gigi Hadid is officially back on the runway. Almost six months after giving birth to her baby girl with Zayn Malik, the Palestinian-Dutch model made her triumphant catwalk return on Friday, walking on the runway of the Versace Fall 2021 show at the Milan Congress Center alongside her younger sister Bella.

The 25-year-old opened the show wearing a long, black overcoat, midriff-baring corset, a short skirt and a pair of chunky platform hiking boots. The look was completed with brand new red hair, that the new mother says was inspired by Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

She changed into a printed mini dress, accessorized with tights, platform shoes and a wide belt for her second look. Then closed out the event in a sheer long-sleeve black gown covered in a subtle monogram motif. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

On Instagram, Gigi shared some footage from the show and wrote: “Opening & closing @versace is always an honor and was the best ‘comeback.’ Mostly just lucky to be healthy, working, and in a safe/tested environment to hug so many I’ve missed like family this past year. Thank you to everyone who made this possible, especially my Italian Taurus queen.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

Meanwhile, her younger sister Bella also made three appearances on the pre-filmed runway. First, she turned heads in a cropped bustier, skater skirt, black bandana and monogram gloves before changing into a purple pleated dress with matching printed tights and satin platform heels. For her final turn down the runway, she wore a slinky printed mini dress.

The Milan Fashion Week event marked the sister duo’s first runway appearance together since Miu Miu’s Fall 2020 show last March.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The virtual pre-recorded show aired on YouTube amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supermodels Irina Shayk and Vittoria Ceretti also strutted down the pre-filmed runway in the Italian fashion house’s luxurious winter offerings.


Drake shows love for Dubai’s royal family in latest track

Drake dropped a new EP over the weekend. File/Instagram
Drake dropped a new EP over the weekend. File/Instagram
Updated 06 March 2021

Drake shows love for Dubai’s royal family in latest track

Drake dropped a new EP over the weekend. File/Instagram

DUBAI: Drake’s love for Dubai is no secret. In fact, the Toronto native, who has visited the city on multiple occasions, has been quite vocal about his admiration by way of Instagram photos and song lyrics, including a line in “Free Smoke,” from his 2017 album “More Life”: “I want to move to Dubai, so I don’t never have to kick it with none of you guys.”

He also namedrops the UAE city in “Sacrifices” featuring Young Thug, in which he states “I got Dubai plates in the California state.”

The Canadian superstar also developed close friendships with UAE royals Sheikh Mansoor and Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, the sons of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The friendship continued to blossom, and the rapper has decided to give a shout out to his friends in a new track, which he dropped this weekend as part of his “Scary Hours 2” EP.

In the song “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” featuring Rick Ross, Drake refers to the Dubai princes as his family.

“And that’s facts, Hamdan Mohammed like my third cousin (Facts)/Mansoor Mohammed like my real brother (Facts)/Dubai embrace me like a Emirati (Facts),” he raps over the moody instrumental.

It’s not the first time that the Grammy award-winning artist has hinted at his ties with the royals. In a 2015 Instagram post from his visit to Dubai, he admitted to looking like Sheikh Mansoor, jokingly stating that he was his “long lost brother.”


Lebanese jewelry maker Danya Jabre on her fun, funky homegrown brand

Lebanese jewelry maker Danya Jabre on her fun, funky homegrown brand
Updated 05 March 2021

Lebanese jewelry maker Danya Jabre on her fun, funky homegrown brand

Lebanese jewelry maker Danya Jabre on her fun, funky homegrown brand

DUBAI: Danya Jabre has reached a stage in her life where she can look back and tell herself that she has done it all. But she has now settled enjoying what she loves most.

A mother, grandmother, and entrepreneur, Jabre fled her native Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982, making her way to England first, and since living in the US, Canada, and France.

Along with her background in graphic design, all of her experiences and travels feed in one way or another into her fun and quirky fine-jewelry brand, The Twist.

“All my life, I used to plan things. They start and they fall apart,” she tells Arab News. But The Twist, which she started in 2014, looks like it’s here to stay.

Jabre’s fascination with jewelry began at an early age. Her mother returned from a trip to Hong Kong with a book on precious stones and their properties, she says: “I was nine! Why would a nine-year-old be interested in reading about a stone?”

But her mother also brought back some rough stones, which instantly sparked a desire in Jabre to hold and examine them, particularly in natural light.

Another distinct memory she shares is of her time spent in London’s punk scene of the 1980s, buying zipper earrings from King’s Road — a center of youth culture that she found fascinating.

The Twist’s first designs, set in gold and silver, were inspired by emojis that had become widely popular through Blackberry Messenger chats — a thing of the past. It was this collection that started it all, which is why it’s still Jabre’s favorite. “It brought me good luck,” she says. “It’s also happy. When I wear it, it’s a conversation starter and I get a lot of reactions from people.”

Another eye-catching collection came along soon after. “Happiness Therapy” consists of humorous necklaces on which hang colorful studded ‘happy’ pills. “It was based on my kids telling me to take a chill pill,” she says. On her website she writes of this collection: “The ultimate lesson that I learned through life is that humor eases difficult situations and makes everything better.” Even the packaging stands out; it resembles a medicine box, and contains the description: “Fast-acting, long-lasting.”

More recently, Jabre has designed larger statement pieces that still convey that pop-culture feel, such as her unique Chinese fortune cookie necklace, which hides a secret paper message and her ‘Popcorn Love’ ring, topped with shiny Mikimoto pearls disguised as pieces of popcorn.

But beyond that layer of joy and creativity, there is one particular collection for which she has a soft spot. When the Lebanese protested en masse against the government in October 2019, she decided to create “Lebanon in my Heart” — which consists of a map of Lebanon, the iconic clinched fist of the revolution, and a cedar tree with the ‘nazar’ symbol (believed to ward off the evil eye).

“I was on the streets at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., from October to February, believing that we can (make) this change,” she recalls. “It’s a very emotional subject. I’m emotionally drained by Lebanon and I still haven’t recovered.”

Like many other small businesses, The Twist has been through a tough period because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And being based in crises-stricken Lebanon has only exacerbated that. But Jabre remains optimistic, and is planning to amp her company’s digital presence.

Needless to say, Jabre gets a kick out of creating her pieces, but it’s the connection that she has built with people that brings her the most joy.

“I love to be creative,” she says. “With my clients, the relationship is not about selling. I follow up with them, asking them how they like their pieces. Some of them end up telling me their life stories. I have a personal relationship with my clients and it’s very encouraging.”


REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life

REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life
Updated 05 March 2021

REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life

REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life
  • Netflix documentary glosses over much, but is a must-see for hip-hop fans

LONDON: Christopher Wallace — better known the world over as The Notorious B.I.G. — would have turned 50 this year, and this intimate character portrait from director Emmett Malloy spends a lot of time reflecting on the promise and potential he had, even beyond his existing legacy and influence on the course of hip-hop history. 

“Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” was made in partnership with Wallace’s estate, so it’s no great surprise that there’s a tremendous amount of love emanating from its contributors, including Biggie’s mother and grandmother, childhood friends, Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy, who signed Biggie to his Bad Boy Records label in 1993 and released his debut album ‘Ready To Die’ the following year), music producer Mark Pitts and many others.

“Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” was made in partnership with Wallace’s estate. (Supplied)

As a result, “I Got a Story to Tell” is a far-from-impartial recounting of the rap star’s meteoric career trajectory, and huge swathes of Wallace’s life are given only a brief mention, at most, and then rarely referenced again. His rivalry with Tupac Shakur and his part in the larger East versus West Coast feud are given short shrift, for example; his marriage to Faith Evans is addressed only in archive footage; while his early relationship with rapper Lil’ Kim is totally eradicated from the story that’s told.

Malloy seeks to redress the balance somewhat by including frank discussion of some of Wallace’s less glamorous history, including his role in the Brooklyn crack-cocaine hierarchy. But it’s no surprise that far more screen time is given to extolling Biggie’s virtues than critiquing his flaws — after all, his mother serves as one of the documentary’s producers, and presumably held sway over what was covered and what was off-limits. Similarly, Combs (who is also a producer) spends far more time championing what a star Wallace was than addressing much of the controversy that has become synonymous with Biggie’s career, and his death.

There is an air of celebration about this film — and perhaps that was always the intention. Through incredible archive footage and home recordings, there’s rarely-glimpsed insight into Wallace’s talent: Seeing him battle during a legendary Brooklyn block party, or hearing his friend (and jazz musician) Donald Harrison highlight the origins of his snare-drum-like rap style is simply wonderful. “I Got a Story to Tell” may not paint the full picture, but it’s no less enthralling as a result.


What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross
Updated 05 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

What We Are Reading Today: Why Not Default? by Jerome E. Ross

The European debt crisis has rekindled long-standing debates about the power of finance and the fraught relationship between capitalism and democracy in a globalized world.

Why Not Default? unravels a striking puzzle at the heart of these debates — why, despite frequent crises and the immense costs of repayment, do so many heavily indebted countries continue to service their international debts?

In this compelling and incisive book, Jerome Roos provides a sweeping investigation of the political economy of sovereign debt and international crisis management, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

He takes readers from the rise of public borrowing in the Italian city-states to the gunboat diplomacy of the imperialist era and the wave of sovereign defaults during the Great Depression.

He vividly describes the debt crises of developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s and sheds new light on the recent turmoil inside the Eurozone— including the dramatic capitulation of Greece’s short-lived anti-austerity government to its European creditors in 2015.