A creative crossroads for art and luxury in the pandemic age

A creative crossroads for art and luxury in the pandemic age
A work by Emirati artist Fatima Al-Kindi that is featured in the “Sense of Women” exhibition in Dubai that showcases the creativity of female artists. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 April 2021

A creative crossroads for art and luxury in the pandemic age

A creative crossroads for art and luxury in the pandemic age
  • Saudi Arabia is a prime example of a nation with a strong luxury market that is investing heavily in art and culture, says TheWincolab founder Jean-Marc Shammas
  • The slowdown has given Middle Eastern entrepreneurs a chance to think outside the box and realize ‘we live in a region where dreams can turn into reality very quickly’

For more than a year the world has been moving in slow motion. To most people, COVID-19 will always be synonymous with the challenges and frustrations of lockdowns, working from home, face masks and social distancing, among other things.

Some, however, saw this global upheaval as an opportunity. As many markets and sectors stalled, the disruption caused by the pandemic to normally hectic activity in fast-moving environments gave some people a chance to adopt new ways of thinking that are more in line with aspirations rather than the requirements of work.

That was certainly the case for Jean-Marc Shammas, founder of TheWincolab, a marketing platform that connects art with luxury. He recently contributed to “Sense of Women,” an exhibition that opened on March 28 at the ME hotel in Dubai and continues until April 20. The event — organized in in partnership with ME Dubai, MIA Art Collection, and Arab News and its international editions — highlights the creativity of female artists from around the world.

Rather than adopting the classic approach of using art to promote luxury brands or lifestyles, or vice-versa, Shammas said the aim of TheWincolab is “creating beauty that generates emotions.” With that in mind, the challenge is to bring together “mindsets that meet and click to create winning partnerships, for better exposure of luxury brands and greater promotion of artists.”




Jean-Marc Shammas, founder of TheWincolab, a marketing platform that aims to combine luxury and art. (Supplied)

Emotion, said Shammas, is a strong pillar of the trending “artketing’’ concept that aims to bridge the gap between art and luxury. Traditionally, luxury consumers purchase luxury products and art collectors invest in art, he explained. However these two distinct investment activities share a strong common value: emotion.

“We certainly buy emotions,” said Shammas. “However, awareness, perspective and knowledge of the latest trends in both luxury and art is demanding. This is where TheWincolab comes in, advising clients and helping them develop a successful ‘artketing’ plan.

The idea for TheWincolab was “born during the confinement,” a time he said gave him a chance “to take two steps back, to reflect on the past and to project myself into a new future.”

After recently leaving his job with Piaget, known for its luxury watches and jewelry, after 15 years leading and managing the brand in the Middle East, Shammas said he “was amazed to see how the confinement had slowed down the incredible professional vortex, leaving more room for reflection, creativity, and a new focus on roots, important inner values, families and close friends.”

Clearly passionate about luxury, he said pandemic confinement gave him a chance to spend more time on another of his passions: art. During that time he “felt the very strong connection between art and luxury, and how genuine and interlinked are the synergies between the two worlds.”

The realization, and a friendship with art collector Alejandra Castro Rioseco, ultimately resulted in the creation of TheWincolab. His vision strongly echoes a global trend of high-end brands that increasingly seek to combine contemporary art and luxury. The Saudi and Emirati markets are no strangers to this dynamic.




TheWincolab advises clients and helps them develop a successful ‘artketing’ plan, according to founder Jean-Marc Shammas. (Supplied)

“Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Jeddah are all investing heavily in promoting the arts,” said Shammas. “Saudi Arabia is a prime example of a nation that has a strong luxury market, which has clearly invested in the promotion of art and culture in recent years. This country, like others in the region, realizes that its heritage, traditions and a talented new generation have not received the support they deserved in the past.”

This, he added, is why such countries and cities are now investing in the promotion of art and culture, as part of their efforts to attract visitors from all over the world.

Meanwhile, said Shammas: “Western Luxury brands have invested in the region in an attempt to establish close links with local customers.” As a result, art and luxury are combining in these places to “bridge the gap between modernity and tradition, between ancestral Western crafts and the local traditions of Gulf countries.”

In this new context, Shammas believes TheWincolab can play an active role in guiding luxury brands to invest more creatively in forging connections with local populations that display talent in, and knowledge of, art.

A prolonged downturn that has lasted more than a year has given many entrepreneurs a chance to think outside the box and realize that “we live in a region where dreams can turn into reality very quickly,” said Shammas.

“The Middle East is home to some of the most successful start-ups in the world, such as Careem, Anghami and many others, which were born thanks to a dynamic ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and facilitates the creation of businesses,” he added.

His message to the next generation of young entrepreneurs in the region is this: “If you have an idea, go for it, meet new people, discuss your project — you will be surprised to see how many open-minded people will help you, mentor you, guide you. Be passionate about everything you do.”


‘Promising Young Woman:’ A mesmeric, Oscar-tipped performance by Carey Mulligan

‘Promising Young Woman:’ A mesmeric, Oscar-tipped performance by Carey Mulligan
‘Promising Young Woman’ has been nominated for a number of Oscars. Supplied
Updated 35 min 48 sec ago

‘Promising Young Woman:’ A mesmeric, Oscar-tipped performance by Carey Mulligan

‘Promising Young Woman:’ A mesmeric, Oscar-tipped performance by Carey Mulligan

CHENNAI: Director Emerald Fennell’s debut feature “Promising Young Woman” is in the Academy Awards race in a multitude of categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. Penned by Fennell herself, it is Carey Mulligan’s work all the way, and she gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Ohio-based Cassandra Thomas.

A medical school dropout, Cassandra is 30 with no boyfriend and no real friends, much to the anxiety of her doting parents. Of course, there is a reason for this. Years ago, her med-school classmate. Al Monroe (Chris Lowell), sexually assaulted her best friend, Nina Fisher. A corrupt lawyer and the school’s uncaring administration let Monroe off and left him not feeling the faintest sense of remorse. Cassandra, a promising student, dropped out and withdrew from social life.

Against this backdrop, which is gradually revealed in the nearly two-hour movie, we watch Cassandra make a weekly trip to a bar until a “friendly” male attempts to take advantage of her inebriated state, before she reveals she is in perfect control of her faculties, having pretended to be tipsy to lull predators into a false sense of security.

The plot is extremely gripping. We watch with trepidation as Cassandra challenges men, who on the surface seem so jovial, friendly and highbrow — the ultimate “nice guys” — until the moment of reckoning, when they fail to do the right thing.

Director Emerald Fennell’s debut feature “Promising Young Woman” is in the Academy Awards race in a multitude of categories. Supplied

Cassandra’s life of solitude is upended, however, when she re-connects with Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham), an old classmate who finds a chink in her armor. The pair does have genuine chemistry — enough for a whole film on them.

“Promising Young Woman” is not about their romance, however. It is about Cassandra, it is about Mulligan, and audiences will be amazed to see her comic side in a film on such dark subject matter — it is a mesmeric performance.

The soundtrack is moody and meaningful — songs like “It’s Rainin’ Men” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” fill the air, as well as Paris Hilton’s cheery pop numbers that are foot-tapping but jarring.


UK actress Jameela Jamil to host 2021 Webby Awards

UK actress Jameela Jamil to host 2021 Webby Awards
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago

UK actress Jameela Jamil to host 2021 Webby Awards

UK actress Jameela Jamil to host 2021 Webby Awards

DUBAI: British actress Jameela Jamil, who is of Indian-Pakistani decent, is set to host the 25th edition of the Webby Awards, organizers announced this week. 

The event will be held virtually and winners will be announced on May 18. 

South Korean band BTS, US singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and rapper Cardi B are among a long list of nominees for the 2021 Webby Awards. 

The nominations also include Trevor Noah, Jennifer Garner, Kevin Bacon, Shaquille O'Neal, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Reynolds, Martin Lawrence, James Corden, LeBron James, Stephen Colbert, Chris Evans, John Mayer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

The awards show, which was founded in 1996, celebrates excellence on the Internet, including websites, media and public relations, advertising, video, apps, mobile and voice, social, podcasts and games.


From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label

From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label
Updated 52 min 47 sec ago

From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label

From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label

DUBAI: A Cairo-born jewelry brand that has been running since 1923 must have quite a story to tell, with plenty of insight for up-and-coming designers to learn from.

Egyptian label El Baz Jewelry is a family business that has been on the market for almost a century, fueled by its evolving artistic vision and mastery of the complex art of jewelry making. 

Youssef El-Baz, one of the owners of the brand, spoke with Arab News about how jewelry design in the region has changed over the past 100 years and why he believes El Baz has endured, as well as the launch of his own brands, one of which he kickstarted in Barcelona. 

“In the past, people were keen on buying jewelry that… was chosen based on the material and the resale value, with little attention to the design,” said El-Baz.

“Today… the customers who want to buy jewelry are (more interested in) the design (rather) than the material,” he added.

However, the designer, who founded two other labels – Grace Jewelry and B Jewelry – believes some things in the industry will never change. 

“I believe what will never change about jewelry is the sentimental value it holds, like inheritance and the idea of passing on jewelry through generations,” he said.  “People hold their loved ones forever (by) wearing and keeping their (designs).”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Grace. (@graceyourjewelry)

When it comes to the brand’s longevity, El-Baz shared his thoughts on why the label has lasted.

“In jewelry, people are always looking for authenticity or people are always looking for high quality, because they are buying something precious … and taste for sure. If the brand is not developing and adapting to the different tastes that change during the years it will die out,” explained El-Baz.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Grace. (@graceyourjewelry)

On that note, in 2019, El-Baz launched his own brand, B Jewelry, during a spell in Barcelona and quickly followed it up with the launch of Grace Jewelry in 2020.

“I wanted to create a jewelry brand that was socially responsible. I felt like Grace can be the beginning of a change in an industry where people start brands that are environmentally aware through their designs, manufacturing and packaging.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by B Jewelry (@bjewelryworld)

El-Baz got the inspiration to open the Cairo-based label Grace when he was in Milan.

“We have a complete collection called For A Better Tomorrow, (where) every design is dedicated toward a good cause. We donate 10 percent of the sales toward a good cause.” 

El-Baz ships worldwide for all three brands. 


Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini

Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini
Syrian refugees and swimmers Yusra and Sarah Mardini pose for photographers with the trophy at the Bambi awards on Nov 17, 2016 in Berlin. AFP
Updated 21 April 2021

Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini

Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini

DUBAI: Netflix has announced that it has teamed up with Egyptian-Welsh director and screenwriter Sally El-Hosaini on a new film titled “The Swimmers,” based on the true story of Syrian refugees-turned-Olympians Sarah and Yusra Mardini.

The film tells the story of the two sisters and competitive swimmers and their miraculous journey as refugees from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Yusra competed as a swimmer as part of the Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROT).

Lebanese actresses, and real-life sisters, Manal and Nathalie Issa will portray Yusra and Sarah Mardini in the upcoming movie.

They will be joined by Arab-Israeli actor Ali Suliman, Egyptian actor Ahmed Malek, Syrian actress Kinda Alloush and “The Good Karma Hospital” star James Krishna Floyd, who starred in El-Hosaini’s last film “My Brother the Devil,” which won the World Cinema Cinematography at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.  

Rounding out the cast are German actor Matthias Schweighöfer and YouTube star Elmi Rashid Elmi.

The forthcoming film will be produced by Working Title’s Eric and Tim Bevan, Ali Jaafar and Tim Cole. Stephen Daldry is the executive producer.

“The Swimmers” is set to begin production this week, shooting in the UK, Turkey and Belgium.

It is slated for global release on Netflix in 2022.


Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life

 Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life
Updated 21 April 2021

Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life

 Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life

LOS ANGELES: The cinema adaptation of much-loved video game Mortal Kombat recently hit the silver screen — and fans can breathe a sigh of relief as it’s a fairly faithful take on the hugely popular game in that the plot and characters are mostly an excuse to string together a series of fight scenes.

For action fans and players of the famously gory fighting games — which featured the ominous and oft-quoted phrase “Finish Him” just before violent wins — while not flawless, the movie is a victory.

“A lot of people grew up with these iconic video games and these pop culture icons,” said Ludi Lin who plays series mainstay Liu Kang. “The more I grow the more I learn that I’m still a kid inside. I think a lot of adults pretend to be someone that they’re not. So, I want these characters and this story to tell people that ‘your childhood actually meant something.’”

The film features several of the franchise’s iconic characters testing their might in a tournament to defend Earth and earns its audience, and its R-rating, with its fight scenes, choreographed and expertly executed by experienced stunt performers, including members the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, a group of stuntmen and martial artists who work alongside the legendary actor.

“All the actors or most of them in this film have extensive martial arts training,” Max Huang, who plays fighter Kung Lao, told Arab News. “Acting or stunts, that’s all part of the whole process in order to create a great film. So having an understanding of creating action definitely helped me to then be in front of the camera and pull off certain types of movements.”

The cast is noteworthy not only for its fighting ability but also for mostly featuring actors of Asian descent — a definite positive in Hollywood, where filmmakers have long been accused of whitewashing.  

“It familiarizes people with the culture of who we are and with seeing us in a different light… we are telling and controlling the storyline,” said Lewis Tan, who portrays series newcomer Cole Young. “I think that that will have an ever-lasting impact eventually, but there’s obviously a lot more that needs  to be done.”