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Art Takes Back the Interior Design Canvas

With the growing demand for murals, graffiti art, installations and creative interior architecture making projects in the region more bold, beautiful and unique, we decided it was high time integral art in interior design gets its deserved spotlight.

 

 


 

 

Throughout history, art has been deeply integrated into interior design. If we look at some of the most prominent structures, particularly ones backed by a religious entity, we find the interior spaces (and some exterior architecture) adorned with the most detailed, spellbinding murals, sculptures, and artistic genius. In fact, centuries ago, religious institutions were the greatest patrons of the art world, followed closely by influential and affluent families, particularly in Europe during the Renaissance.

Along the way, as modernism entered, art patronage shifted into the hands of the capitalists, and became more of possessions to be acquired. In fact, Capitalism is the driving economy behind modern art today.

Fast forward to the past decade, interior art (or art integrated into the interior design and architecture of a space) is becoming mainstream again. And quite frankly, we’re loving it! Sitting in the LTD offices, we are used to a slew of project feeds and case studies landing in our inboxes. And the ones that grab attention invariably have some unique, artistic properties that sit within the interior facade.

This also had us wondering about the importance of art consultancy, whether art consultants be brought in at the start of a project and subsequently be part of the initial budget, as opposed to an afterthought or accessory, as has been the case for the majority of projects in the past. We spoke to a few of the leading players in the Middle East art and design market, and received some incredibly refreshing and eye opening feedback.

Artwork by Art Painting Lab for Boxica

Capsule Arts

 

Capsule Arts has been operating as a provider of art based design services in the region for several years, designing and producing bespoke art and accessories packages for the hospitality industry. Their packages start from concept design through to production and installation, and work with a host of artists in the MENASA region and beyond. Their art consultancy portfolio includes award winning projects, the most recent being the Vida Emirates Hills hotel, which received the Ahead Award MENA 2020 edition in the lobby and public spaces category. The hotel and Lulie Fisher Design Studio also won Best Interior Design for a Hotel at the CID awards in 2019. Rachael Brown, Co-Founder and Creative Director, speaks to LTD about the growth of art integrated interiors in the region, and the role of instagram in promoting this trend.

“It’s taken some time for commercial projects in this region to take the art component of a design seriously,” she says. “However, we’re now finally seeing some action, mainly driven by the interior designers, operating brands, developers and owners. These are the people who understand how a great art collection can set their hospitality project apart from the others. We still face many enquiries that treat art as an accessory to match the colour scheme. I don’t consider this to be integrated art and, in my opinion, these projects are missing a trick.

Installation by Capsule Arts in the lobby at the Vida Downtown Residences

“Art needs to be a conversation at the start of a project. Thankfully, there are some notable design firms who really push for this and use their voice to advocate working with an art consultant. Instagram definitely plays a significant role in how a whole generation of travellers chooses where to stay. Take the Millennials, for instance. Before the pandemic, they travelled more times a year than any other generation before them. They’re a savvy audience and they want more from their hotel than just a place to rest their head. Since Instagram is image led, we can see why it has become such a key concern for operators and investors, as they need the imagery to speak for them and attract bookings.For any art collection to create an impact, it has to create a connection in a way that is authentic to the hotel, brand, and destination. If your Instagram moment isn’t created with this integrity it won’t have the desired effect in the long term, and that’s why integration is so important.”

And should art consultancy be brought in at the beginning rather than at the end of a project? Or does it not make much of a difference…

“Art placement should be purposeful within design, and not just an added layer at the end, or an afterthought. When we’re brought in at the start of a project, we’re able to have a more collaborative relationship with the designers and help create what we now call, ‘wow moments’. I’m biased but when architecture, interiors, and art all come together in an integrated manner, the project captures you in a whole new way.

“Interior art needs careful consideration in terms of budgeting, and needs the support of all the stakeholders to bring a design vision to life. I always say to our clients: ‘We spend your money as if it’s our own’. In other words, we’re not going to spend it if it doesn’t bring value. That value comes when the art is not only integrated into the interior design, but also with the brand and the property’s destination. All these aspects lie at the heart of our design principles and are the building blocks of our projects.”

Clockwise from top left: Installations by Capsule Arts at 1) Rove Downtown Dubai 2) Vida Emirates Hills 3) Nikki Beach Resort 4) Interactive art wallpaper by APE

Art Painting Lab

 

Founder Sam Kaufman Saliba tells us the story of the birth of her consultancy and studio. “Because I grew up in Dubai, I was surrounded by a very barren, construction society that lacked colour. I thought to myself, as long as there are spaces and walls, I can bring in the art and artists.” And that was the start of Art Painting Lab, a company that offers art consultancy, with resident artists based in Dubai, creating artwork packages for industry partners and social establishments, as well as offering fine art painting services, murals, sculptures and digital creative design.

“I think that art is part of the evolution of a city,” says Sam. “In the past, art has always played a role. The Sistine Chapel, for example, has art completely embedded in its architecture and interior design. The UAE is a new country with a lot of people coming from around the world. They’re bringing in their own culture and experiences. When you come to a melting pot such as this, all of these experiences eventually start merging and creating their own artistic momentum. A Lebanese restaurant, for example, becomes an experience for someone not from Lebanon, not only in terms of food and design, but also art and culture. This is also where Instagram comes into the mix. People are communicating their experiences to their friends and family back home, hence the rise in demand for more ‘instagrammable’ interiors. This is a growing global trend, for sure, but in the UAE, it is definitely more visible and this could be because there are more venues coming up here, whereas in other countries, construction and growth is not as explosive.”

So should art consultancy be brought in at the beginning rather than at the end of a project?

“Art can come in at any point of a project, and it can be embedded into the interior architecture or placed at the end. We call this distinction integral and non integral art. Integral art could be installations, for example, while non integral would be the loose art, paintings, etc. Interestingly, the latter is the art that is being seen and being photographed, whereas the integral art, the one that is embedded, sets the mood of the space and acts as the canvas for non integral art. Art is also moved from an element only to be enjoyed by high society, to beauty that has become mainstream and can be consumed by all. If you visit a small burger joint, you will most likely come across a very hip and artistic ambience. Whereas just a few years back, that same burger joint would have looked like yet another MacDonald’s. So I would say, the integration of art and design is becoming a lot more mainstream and hence, more visible.”

Above: Baby Q project by Art Painting Lab; Below: Baby Q and Radisson Red by Art Painting Lab

Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery

 

Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery has been offering art consultancy services to homes, corporates and hospitality spaces for the last three decades. The team work closely with design and architectural firms in the region, and since 2000, have been functioning under the artistic guidance of Neel Shukla, Senior Art Director, who brings a unique offering to the design landscape with his large scale installations.

“Dubai has been following international trends for many years, but in the last five years, we have seen tremendous growth in the creative genre. There is a pool of very creative people here who are forming their own trend. Now more than ever, they are not shying away, but instead being bold and loud! And stakeholders are paying more and more attention to the artists, so now, instead of following the proverbial ‘wagon’, we are very much on it taking not the driver’s but maybe the second seat.”

Well, that’s an interesting analogy. 

“In the past, the medium was very basic – canvas, paper, sculptural materials. But now, you have such a diverse toolbox – glass, wires, straw, nails – every single noble material has become a piece of creative offering, and the range that we can showcase has become much more diverse. It’s just a matter of how you curate it.

I create large scale installations that require a tremendous amount of engineering, for example, looking at wind load, dead weight, etc. These installations are very much a part of the architecture of the space, and embedded in the DNA of the property.

And has there been a steady increase in demand for such art?

“I have certainly worked harder in the last year, than the past five years combined. I have six projects on the go at the moment. I chose art engineering as my genre, and while it is a difficult field, I realised that this was a much better way to add value to the city and the projects. It’s a much tougher sell to the client, but it is long lasting. You have to consider elements such as waterproofing, earthquake resilience, rusting and the ability to sustain for a few decades at least. Recently, I have created an eight metre flying Octopus for the 

We ask Neel about his thoughts on Insta culture driving art in interior design.

“It’s certainly a marketing tool, but I would like to say that true art should be appreciated in a personal way. A good example of this is the Arts Club, a beautiful space with incredible artwork inside, and absolutely no social media allowed, because you are meant to experience the art, not take pictures of it.”

So should art consultation come at the beginning of a project? 

“It’s entirely the client’s call. But I would say this, that art is always better expressed with a clean canvas. If you try to squeeze it in earlier on, it may not turn out the way you pictured as the project design undergoes many changes along the way. Where the owners are buying the art, there is no particular agenda and the design can build from that point on. That is more of a higher, blue chip level of collection. But where hospitality is concerned, you are creating an experience, and there is a need for harmony. In this case, an art consultant should be brought in right from the start of the project. On another note, when it comes to your home or personal space, you should really adopt a more laissez faire approach, and let the art evolve on a gradual basis.”

Above: Neel Shukla at the Montagne des Chocolat, a creative collaboration with HBA and Canvas Art Consultants; Below: The Falcon at The Radisson Red Hotel in Dubai; Raindrop sculpture and lighting installation

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