‘Un(masked)’ is a group exhibition in Dubai created by Iwan Maktabi in collaboration with House of Today and Saleh Barakat Gallery. It features limited-edition rugs designed by seven contemporary Lebanese architects, designers and artists commissioned by Iwan Maktabi as the newest edition of the company’s collaboration with Lebanon’s creative communities.
Organised as a temporary exhibition at Warehouse 82 in Alserkal Avenue—Dubai’s renowned cultural district—the warehouse location is a solemn nod to Warehouse 12 at the Port of Beirut Lebanon: ground zero for the devastating explosion in August 2020 that killed many, left thousands homeless and damaged more than half of the city. Timed to coincide with Art Dubai, ‘Un(masked)’ is one of the few IRL art and design events currently taking place; a testament to the faith and determination of the Beirut creative community.
The exhibition’s location reflects the fact that suitable exhibition locations in Beirut are constrained, by the August event, but the Dubai warehouse also allows ‘Un(masked)’ to serve notice that the resiliency of Beirut is undimmed, and the artistic and creative communities of Beirut (and Lebanon) have a phoenix-like determination to rise from the ashes—in some cases literally. ‘It is easy to succumb to the defeatist atmosphere currently around us,’ says Mohamed Maktabi, co-founder of Iwan Maktabi, ‘[but] our survival instincts have kicked in and we must realise that life goes on and that there is hope.’
A third-generation family company run by Mohamed and his sisters Mona and Chirine, they chose the exhibition’s name to break free figuratively, if not literally, from the COVID-19 lockdown, but also to acknowledge the trauma brought on by the explosion. As a result of lives defined by masks and two confining and defining events, Maktabi says they wanted to ‘unmask’ these works of art rather than ‘reveal’ them in the usual language of the art and design worlds. ‘We chose the designers based on our conviction that these talents have something new and different to say and we gave them the medium of carpet to say it with.’
The final days of the ‘(Un)masked’ exhibition coincide with the annual flowering of Beirut’s avenues of joyous pink blossomed Tabebuia rosea trees—an inspiring spectacle undimmed by explosion or pandemic. ‘This exhibition is a form of hope,’ says Mohamed Maktabi, ‘like springtime after a cold winter, and rebuilding after a deadly explosion. ‘Un(masked)’ is a crucial exhibition for us. We at Iwan Maktabi will continue to do what we know best and that means bringing beautiful objects to the people around us.’
Inspired by the texture of antique Ziegler and Agra carpets they admired at Iwan Maktabi, david/nicolas merged that inspiration with contemporary and futuristic motifs to create the Orientations rug collection.
Studio Manda by Georges Mohasseb and Kareem Asli presents their carpet Borderless inspired by a suspension lighting element designed by the studio whose design references Beirut’s urban topography.
Representing abstract imaginings of ‘our mystifying universe’, the Odyssey collection by Gregory Gatserelia was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Let Me Take Another Look by Karim Chaya features a photo-realistic man en grisaille ‘reclining’ on an antique carpet. The figure is The Dude—the beloved chief protagonist in cult film The Big Lebowski the plot of which revolves around an antique carpet.
A modern antique where the bold geometric motif of All Eyes by artist and jewellery designer Nadine Kanso is overlaid on a traditional and delicate floral field, Kanso’s design interprets the famous solitary eye amulet that protects the wearer from ‘the evil eye’. So too it seems to interpret Kanso’s ‘Ya Ein’ single eye jewellery that references the Arabic exclamation of beauty that translates into English as ‘Oh Eyes!’
Kundel by Orient 499 is an interpretation of the silk ikat kaftans worn by Uzbek noblemen.
Strata by architect Roula Salamoun features flows similar in design to a cross-section of a geode and colours that represent Kathmandu’s architecture and landscape. Salamoun also intends the design to reference the carpet industry ‘wherein the weavers, designers, and product are all intertwined’.
The exhibition continues until Sunday 4 April 2021