ATHR GALLERY is delighted to announce its inaugural participation in Nomad Design and Art Fair (Venice) For this edition, the Gallery will present artists, designers and architects specialised in collectible design from the Middle East with new commissions of bronze works produced by the Battaglia Foundry in Milan. Titled WEHE, the showcase explores the meaning of primordiality and its connection to the desert environment. Oasis dwellings in particular, with their unique geographic context and the preservation of old traditions from local inhabitants, combine concepts of modern living with technology and primordial lifestyle. A balance is set between a contemporary understanding of the world and an environment surrounded by essential and meaningful objects, together generate a ritual. The word WEHE comes from Ancient Egyptian language and means a “dwelling place”, WEHE is also the origin of the word waaha in Arabic and “oasis” in Greek.
Taher Asad-Bakhtiari (Iran)
Taher Asad-Bakhtiari (b. 1982, Tehran) is a self-taught artist whose approach focuses on experimentations on objects and textiles to create and reinvent techniques and uses. He has developed several bodies of work including The Tribal Weave Project that breaks hundreds of years of weaving traditions. He re-created pieces that take on new functions as wall partitions, wall coverings, furniture spreads, challenging in their sweep the orthodox notion that “kilims and gabbehs are for the floor.” His work has been shown in several international exhibitions, including the Met (New York), Carwan Gallery (Beirut), Wallpaper* Middle East Revealed, Qattan Foundation (London), and Katara Art Centre (Doha).
Woven by semi-nomadic tribal women using entirely naturally-dyed, hand-spun wool, each piece can require up to four months to create, depending on size. Unlike the traditional Iranian carpet, Iranian tribal weaves display quite simple patterns, because tribal people weave what they see: the sky, the mountains, the earth, the animals. Inspired by the power of this puritan philosophy, Asad-Bakhtiari imagines a process to further strip the tribal weave to its bare elements, starting with the weaving process itself.
Flavie Audi (Lebanon)
Audi’s practice finds its point of departure within the manipulation of glass. Glass plays a crucial part in contemplating a speculative utopian world where humans create cosmic fragments and new landscape formations. Her Cloudscapes are created using a combination of blown glass, colour pigments and semi-precious materials, such as fine gold and silver. When added to the glass, these elements spark chemical reactions, making the pieces simultaneously scientific and open to chance. The results of Audi’s skilled alchemic glass-blowing process are tactile and sensual, yet contained in a solid glass sculpture. Their undefined edges and fluctuating colours change constantly under different lights.
bahraini—danish (Bahraink, Denmark)
Established in 2016 architects Batool Alshaikh, Maitham Almubarak, and Christian Vennerstrøm Jensen, bahraini—danish is a collective that uses cultural differences, both social and professional, as a means to create. The exhibition will include seven coffee and side tables from the series Unsighted Tables made of Giallo Avorio marble. Each table is a rectangle cut in a way that can be placed against any wall in a room. With all sides cut and aligned to an invisible rectangle, the tables are inscribed in a space within the space and make-up a group of familiar objects with an implicit logic. This project was produced with the support of Casone Group, experts in marble production in Italy.
The collective represented Bahrain in the Venice’s Architecture Biennale in 2018 and their work is featured in the 58th Venice Art Biennale in 2019.
Omar Chakil (Egypt)
Of Egyptian/Lebanese roots, Omar Chakil was raised in Paris and is self-taught. He developed the series, Volutes, made of unvarnished, untreated, raw Egyptian alabaster which he calls Pharaonic alabaster to differentiate it from other kinds of onyx marbles. Launched during Beirut Design Fair 2018 and ‘House of Today’ Biennale, the series examines the energy of movement and sensuality inspired by the stone’s ancient healing, mystic and soothing swirl-like motifs. “The idea was to find an emblematic Egyptian mineral and use it to create contemporary objects that would build bridges between past and present, craft and design, earthly and ethereal...”, says Chakil. Volutes is handmade in Egypt merging his Egyptian roots with his French aesthetic heritage through sobriety and grace.
Karen Chekerdjian (Lebanon)
One of the most established designers in Lebanon, Chekerdjian received her master’s degree from Domus Academy. Her work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions including in Copenhagen, Milan, Tokyo, and Beirut. She has been featured in Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Beirut) as well as Nilufar Gallery (Milan). Over the Forest is the result of a collaboration between Karen Chekerdjian and Iwan Maktabi. An experiment with textiles, aerial views of forest canopies become a textured carpet and surface sculpture of diverse colors and terrains, bringing the lushness and vastness of nature into the indoors.
Ghaith & Jad (Lebanon)
Ghaith Abi Ghanem & Jad Melki trained at Raëd Abillama Architects (Lebanon) and at Herzog and de Meuron (Switzerland), before setting up their collective. Their practice allows experimentation to freely sculpt their designs and focuses on being true to material and responsive to context.
Developed for Wehe, from a slender metallic capsule emerges rug, recliner, bench and banner: an object with multiple lives and myriad forms. Myriad was inspired by the resilience and ritual of traditional life, the raw texture of undyed wool can be spread out as carpet, or suspended from the wall. When wrapped around its canister, the fabric gains volume and weight and takes on a contemporary form, becoming a seat or headrest, responding to the body at ease. Felted, quilted, cut, cast and polished, the piece’s materiality reflects centuries of local craftsmanship. Ghaith&Jad’s object marries the mysterious with the utilitarian, inviting an encounter both visual and tactile. A union of historic craftsmanship and contemporary design, this object defies single definition: at once architectural and ambiguous, hard and supple, protective and inviting—a body of both bone and fat.
Rasha Nawam & Mary-Lynn Massoud (Lebanon)
Massoud trained in ceramics at La Manufacture de Sèvres in France and Nawam studied ceramics in Lebanon and the US. They have been collaborating since 2007 and have participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions in New York, Paris, Dubai, Basel, Milan, Monaco and Beirut. Their latest works, Essai, demonstrate a synthesis of materials, colors and textures. The artists explore different material combinations ranging from stoneware, glass, metal powder, glaze and porcelain to name a few. Their innovative approach has led to unique formations, further developed with every piece creating rugged shapes, intensified with vibrant colors and a multitude of textures.
Anastasia Nysten (Lebanon)
Nysten trained at Karen Chekerdjian design studio and was part of lighting designer Michael Anastassiades’ team. Since 2015, Nysten started experimenting in her own studio with objects and interiors that combine stories of different cultures.
The Monobloc chair - an iconic object that was mass produced in the 1950s, has revolutionized manufacturing and taken over our homes and businesses as a low-cost seating option. Nysten’s observation of its mass presence led her to an experimental project that relates to our social behaviour; how cultures and places affect us and the way we perceive ourselves. The material in this series of chairs has been sourced from various locations in the region. The importance of the craftsmanship and the time dedicated to produce each embellishment is contrasted with the pace of the plastic chair’s making, known to be manufactured at a speed of 2min/chair. Nysten has collaborated with sewing amateurs to haute-couture designers and craftsmen to develop this collection of chairs.
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Created in 2016 as a concept ready to travel the world, Nomad is a response to the growing interest in collectable design and contemporary art among collectors, cultural institutions and beyond. Nomad brings together leading international galleries to create standout exhibitions in extraordinary architectural locations.
Conceived by Giorgio Pace and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, Nomad establishes a unique dialogue between art, architecture and design in a very personal context. As a result it creates a special community of individuals who are looking for a different experience than the one found among large scale fairs.
Each showcase lasts four days and is strictly by invitation-only. In addition to the main event, Nomad boasts a distinguished programme consisting of talks by prominent designers and arts, architect-led tours of local landmarks and visits to private homes or collections.