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The Art of Contemporary Design from Beirut

Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, Najla El Zein & Malu Halasa

14/09/13

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Join The Mosaic Rooms for a conversation between Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder of Beirut’s Carwan Gallery, with Lebanese designer, Najla El Zein.

Contemporary design rarely figures in traditional crafts, particularly within the context of the modern Middle East. Redressing this imbalance is Carwan Gallery’s exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms for London Design Festival. Carwan Gallery explores new avenues in design through commissioning international designers to work in partnership with local artisans all over the Middle East to create limited edition objects. These design objects encapsulate the re-imagining of distinct time-honored techniques and skills.

Najla El Zein is a space and product designer, whose site specific installation The Wind Portal is on display at the V&A for this year’s London Design Festival. Her work is best known for its experimental approach to space and objects, where the lines between art and design are deliberately blurred. She often uses commonplace materials in unlikely contexts in order to re-engage sensory experiences.

El Zein, Wakim and Bellavance-Lecompte all work in Beirut, which the latter two consider “the Berlin of the Middle East”. Designers can face there, according to El Zein, “the liberty of creating” due to the “the artisanal facilities and know-how” available in the region. Even the shifting geopolitics, which she describes as “chaotic environments”, can lead “to inspirations of fantasies and the need of materializing sensations.”

As more Lebanese foreign-trained creatives return to their city, design has emerged as a relatively new form compared to the more traditional arts. So what does contemporary design from Beirut divulge about Middle Eastern identities, histories and aspirations?

The conversation will be moderated by Malu Halasa, author, writer and former editor at large for the urbanism and architectural journal, Portal 9: Stories and Critical Writing about the City, from Beirut.

FREE, rsvp@mosaicrooms.org

Part of the London Design Festival 2013, in collaboration with the V&A.

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