For people who appreciate art but never seem able to find the time to visit galleries, this month there really is no excuse. Saks Fifth Avenue in Dubai's Burjuman Centre gives visitors an opportunity to combine a trip to the mall with a very special type of window-shopping with its project Fashion x Art.The store has commissioned two Arab artists to create four of its autumn/winter window displays, with the grand unveiling to take place this evening for about 100 VIPs and other guests."We are delighted to create a unique platform to celebrate the creative talent and skills of up-and-coming locally based artists," says Carla Daaboul, marketing manager for Saks Fifth Avenue. "There is a natural synergy between the worlds of fashion and art. This is a focal part of Saks' DNA and we are thrilled to celebrate and highlight this through the exhibition."
The two artists, who will have their work displayed until October, are Emirati-born Khawla Al Marri and the UAE-raised Kuwaiti-Jordanian Khalid Sharaan.
Frame by frame, window by window, the artists' displays will take shoppers through a story about the cities of New York and Dubai, says Sharaan, a furniture designer.
"It's a timeline, a fun theme which combines the feel of New York City and the soul of Dubai. It's high fashion meets luxury and certain lifestyles that are common to both cities. My life is pretty much a reflection of the windows - very much East meets West."
Sharaan, 30, who recently launched his own couture furniture collection called byKAL, designed four one-of-a-kind chairs for the commission, made from modern and antique materials."All the pieces were hand-made using vintage frames and pop art imagery," he says. "The seats are made out of Arabian cooking pots, faux grass, fur and even pony skin, that's what's so unique about them!"
Complementing Sharaan's designs are acrylic-on-canvas paintings by the 29-year-old pop-artist Al Marri, which act as the window's backdrops."I fit well with Khalid," she says. "Our styles are quite similar in the way that he has funky furniture and I have funky art."New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, are depicted in Al Marri's pieces, which took her a month to create. Representing the UAE's rich cultural and commercial past was equally important to the artist.
"I've put a little something of urban Dubai into the pieces: the old buildings but also the new towers," she says. "I've also represented the old and new fashion boutiques - and of course all the brands under Saks. I just love the idea of mixing art, interior design and fashion store."
Al Marri says her involvement in the project has taken her one step closer to realising her ambition of representing Dubai abroad through her art.
"I'm really flattered they chose me, it's raised the bar for me." she says. "This project will open doors for me and maybe it will give me the chance to look at different stores, other boutiques, expand the idea. I would love to be an international artist."
In addition to the window displays, both artists have created pieces to be sold inside the store, with a percentage of all proceeds being donated to the Noor Dubai Foundation.
Ten chairs will be available to buy, starting individually from Dh3,500 with a set retailing for Dh61,000. Five of Al Marri's paintings will also be on sale for about Dh8,200 each, in addition to one being raffled.
The theme for the in-store artwork, although similar to the Saks window displays, places more emphasis on icons past and present, says Al Marri.
"I've done a Marilyn Monroe piece," she says. "The story behind it being, what if Monroe was living in Arabia? Her make-up would be different, her style too, etc."Another one is Elvis - but with an Arabian feel. For example, I've put him in an Egyptian tent that they normally use for weddings - and he was singing there. So it's a blend of Arabia and these icons."
From / The National