‘Un(Masked)’: Group exhibition in Dubai unites Lebanese creatives

An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ exhibition in Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Aasiya Jagadeesh. Supplied
An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ exhibition in Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Aasiya Jagadeesh. Supplied
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Updated 29 March 2021

‘Un(Masked)’: Group exhibition in Dubai unites Lebanese creatives

An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ exhibition in Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Aasiya Jagadeesh. Supplied

DUBAI: Inside a warehouse in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s lauded cultural district in the city’s industrial Al-Quoz area, an array of limited edition design pieces and carpets come together in unison. From Egyptian alabaster objects and stools to specially crafted carpets featuring a multitude of patterns and cultural influences, as well as hand-crafted ceramics and evocative paintings, “Un(Masked),” a unique group exhibition staged by third generation Lebanese carpet maker Iwan Maktabi, brings together some of Lebanon’s most revered names in art, design and architecture.

Created in collaboration with Lebanese design platform House of Today and Beirut-based art gallery Saleh Barakat Gallery, the exhibition comes at a particularly dire time for Lebanon. Just over seven months since the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion rocked an already fragile nation, electricity continues to run low, inflation is at an all-time high and the UN has just declared the country a “hunger hotspot.” 

Unable to easily stage exhibitions in their home country, “Un(Masked)” is the first time since the explosion that Lebanese creatives have gathered together outside of Lebanon to present their work.

An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ featuring carpets by Gregory Gatserelia from his ‘ODYSSEY’ collection (right) and ‘Borderless’ by Studio Manda by Mohasseb and Kareen Asli (left), Egyptian Alabaster stools by Omar Shakil and wall ceramics by Hala Matta. Supplied

The show highlights the latest IWAN MAKTABI x Collection, an ongoing project involving a range of architects, designers and artists who have collaborated with Iwan Maktabi on limited edition carpets. These include David/Nicolas, Georges Mohasseb and Kareen Asli, Rola Salamoun, Nadine Kanso, Hala Matta, Omar Chakil and Gregory Gatserelia.

The name of the exhibition refers to the idea of breaking free from the chains of confinement that have gripped the world, and also the trauma that continues to plague Lebanon.

“I was sitting in Beirut with a couple of friends, and we were speaking about how our lives have been influenced by masks and confinement,” said Mohamed Maktabi, co-founder of Iwan Maktabi. “So instead of ‘revealing’ works of art and design as we once did, we are in essence ‘unmasking’ them to the world.”

Many of the works were supposed to be shown at bespoke design fair NOMAD, which was recently canceled. Instead, Iwan Maktabi, which is run by Mohamed and his two sisters Mona and Chirine, decided to show them in Dubai as part of the lead-up to Art Dubai.

An installation view of a carpet by Roula Saloumoun next to her mirror and console titled ‘Anatomy.’ Supplied

 “Everything always happens for a reason,” Maktabi told Arab News in Dubai. “After NOMAD got canceled we decided to come to Dubai and when I saw the space in Alserkal Avenue I fell in love with it because it was huge and it gave us the opportunity to show the full breadth of our IWAN MAKTABI x Collection. In addition, it coincides with Art Dubai, one of the few physical art fairs taking place in the world this year.”

Of note are the Egyptian Alabaster objects by Lebanese-Egyptian multidisciplinary artist Chakil. There are candle holders, stools and small circular chests made from the smooth seemingly mystical stone of alabaster.

“I chose Egyptian Alabaster to tell stories of healing energy and sensuality because it is literally part of the core of Egypt,” Chakil told Arab News. “Hopefully (my work can) build bridges between past, present and future and between my Western and my Middle Eastern heritage.”

The space, with its large windows that beam in rays of light highlighting the various works on display, acts as a temporary sanctuary for art and design. Amidst the breathtaking carpets on display are artworks by some of Lebanon’s most prominent names: Hala Shoukair, Fadia Haddad, Samir Sayegh, Tagreed Darghouth and Bassam Kawagi. Through their expressive canvases they sing a different song for their country, telling not only of its challenges but of its beauty and heritage.

“Lebanon is going through much more than a crisis,” added Chakil. “It’s more important than ever for Lebanese creatives to find outlets to express their visions to the world. Iwan Maktabi has offered us a window of expression in nearby Dubai and hopefully from there to the world.”

The exhibition runs until 4 April from 10am – 9am at Warehouse 82 in Alserkal Avenue Please contact [email protected] to book an appointment