Parisian-born Cyril Zammit launched Design Days Dubai (DDD) in 2012 with 22 regional and international galleries. Last week, 33 galleries attended the 2014 edition of the fair, with eight of them returning for the third year in a row. In a short time, DDD has grown from a small, optimistic venture to an important fixture in the design fair calendar. And the event has a formed its own unique character - it is a fair about people, for people, and by people.
The loyal gallerists who have been part of DDD from the beginning include Lebanese architect Pascale Wakim and Canadian architect Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, who founded Carwan Gallery; Parisian Loic Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail, who established Carpenters Workshop Gallery; São Paulo-based Coletivo Amor de Madre founder Olivia Yassudo; Southern Guild's Trevyn and Julian McGowan; and Victor Hunt Designart Dealer founder Alexis Ryngaert. Their patience and endurance paid off in this third edition, when critical acclaim developed into good sales.
Housed under the sprawling canvas roof of the fair tent, beneath the teetering Burj Khalifa, were products from both regional and international contemporary designers and artists. Wakim and Bellavance-Lecompte channelled the style and skills of the Gulf creatives; works from Iranian artist Taher Asad-Bakhtiari and Lebanese artist Wyssem Nochi, designers Nada Debs and Chekerdjian sat seamlessly next to UK-based Michael Anastassiades' 'Miracle Chips' installation (originally commissioned for Wallpaper* Handmade 2013).
Galerie Yves Gastou, meanwhile, landed at the fair with elegant works by 20th-century avant-garde design masters Philippe Hiquily, Ado Chale and Paul Evans, accented with Emmanuel Babled's 'Osmosi' collection in carrara marble and murano glass. 'People here ask no bad questions,' says gallerist Victor Gastou, 'they are willing to understand all kinds of beauty.' This open-mindedness may, in part, be due to the increased diversity of the fair's visitors this year, who came to the DDD not just to browse and socialise, but to seriously invest in pieces and their creators.
A new addition to the fair was the 'Discovery' section, with French galleries Galerie Gosserez, Gallery S Bensimon, NextLevel Galerie and Ymer & Malta selected to exhibit. Elswhere, a hidden gem sitting modestly in a corner of Austrian silversmith Wiener Silber Manufactur's stand was Erwin Wurm's zuccheriera, a 'fat sugar box' evolved from his famous 'Fat Car' series - the artist's first encounter with silver.
There was a strong list of galleries from the region this year. FN Designs from Dubai showed works by 10 UAE-based designers, as part of a '10-100-1000' initiative; Pakistan-based Coalesce Design Studio gave a fresh perspective to its own nation's culture with its collection of offerings; and the 'Deglobalizer' project by Paolo Cardini, a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, displayed global IKEA products adapted to fit local life. The work raised questions about how international and local design can converge to create a common recognisable hybrid.
The highly anticipated Dubai Design District (d3) is due to open next year, and the next Design Days Dubai edition will see a new and extended venue. 'All the work is for the success of Dubai and to make Dubai a "must" in the global circuit,' says Zammit.